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NYC man sues city after false 2012 arrest for subway theft

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Monday, October 19, 2015, 9:11 PM

David Owens, who now lives in Georgia, was working at his job at Macy's in the city when the theft occurred, and told the cops to check with his boss, but they did not listen.Wes Wilson

David Owens, who now lives in Georgia, was working at his job at Macy’s in the city when the theft occurred, and told the cops to check with his boss, but they did not listen.

A former Macy’s employee racked up six weeks behind bars at Rikers for a subway robbery he didn’t commit — because he fit the vague description of a black man wearing a hoodie, a bombshell lawsuit charges.

David Owens is suing the city of New York and NYPD Officer Anthony Francavilla Monday saying he was unfairly busted on Oct. 23, 2012.

Owens had just clocked out of his stock clerk job at the Herald Square flagship store around 3 a.m. and boarded an uptown No. 1 train at 34th St., according to the federal suit filed in Manhattan.

He had no idea he was walking into a nightmare set in motion an hour earlier when an “erratic, possibly intoxicated and definitely hysterical” white woman told police that her backpack had been stolen on the A/C/E line train at another station.

Owens was still at Macy’s finishing up his shift when the alleged theft took place, his lawsuit says.

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The accuser told police she was resting with her feet on her backpack at 2:28 a.m. when she “felt someone” take it and “later” saw her hoodie-clad assailant “get off the train and run up a flight of stairs,” the lawsuit claims.

When police detained Owens an hour later, the woman, “who officers had to hold up as she spoke,” claimed that Owens “did it,” according to the complaint.

Owens tried to protest, explaining he had just clocked out of his job. He even showed officers his timecard receipt and gave them the phone number of his supervisor, but Officer Francavilla utterly “ignored him,” the lawsuit claims.

Owens was arrested and charged with grand larceny and had his bail set at $ 3,550 – a figure he could not pay, his lawyer said.

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David Owens was thrown in Rikers for six weeks in 2012, just because he matched he description of a black man wearing a hoodie who robbed a woman on a train. Owens was at his job at Macy’s when the theft occurred, however.

To his horror, he spent the more than a month locked away at Rikers on the word of a “totally unreliable” witness and a cop who refused to check his airtight alibi, lawyer Andrew Hoffman said.

The mind-bending saga cost Owens his job at Macy’s and left him with cascading problems in his personal and professional life.

“It messed me up,” said Owens, who now lives in Augusta, Ga., told the Daily News exclusively on Monday.

“I just hoped and prayed I wouldn’t get killed in there, and I would be able to tell my story so other people wouldn’t have to go through what I did,” he said.

“It was incredibly traumatic. If you get picked up and forcibly taken by someone and held against your will, it’s not that different from being kidnapped,” Hoffman told The News on Monday.

“It was especially frustrating for a young man who was doing all the right things and was ready to demonstrate that he had an alibi,” Hoffman said. “(Owens) is someone who, if you talk to him today, continues to suffer. This permeates his consciousness. It affects the way he looks at police, the criminal justice system, society and his role in that society.”

According to his complaint, Owens was never brought before a grand jury and never heard his arresting officers testify.

The case against him was dismissed after the six weeks in jail when prosecutors conceded they could not prove their case, the complaint states.

The dismissal “amplifies that the (female) complainant was totally unreliable, that no reasonable officer would have credited the word of the complainant and that the officers’ arrest of Mr. Owens was totally unsupported by probable cause,” the complaint states.

Owens believes his civil rights were violated and he was the victim of malicious prosecution.

“Defendants’ actions were motivated by bad faith, malice and/or deliberate indifference to the rights of Mr. Owens,” the paperwork filed in New York’s Southern District says.

He claims the city failed to adequately hire, screen and train Francavilla and the other unidentified transit officers involved in his ordeal.

Owens is seeking a jury trial and punitive damages.

“We will review the complaint,” a city spokesman said Monday.

“We do not comment on pending litigation,” an NYPD spokesman said.

Francavilla was involved in another high-profile arrest last year that involved claims of mistreatment.

Los Angeles transplant Evan King claimed Francavilla called him a “d–k,” threw him to the ground and threatened his life when he dared to ask why he was being stopped and questioned at a Midtown subway station.

King also sued the city in Manhattan Federal Court in April of last year. The suit was settled in December.

ndillon@nydailynew.com

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