Man (Private Detective) Guilty of Raping Ex-Girlfriend and Then Framing Her
By DAN BILEFSKY
November 23, 2011
Photos byUli Seit for The New York Times
Jerry Ramrattan after he was found guilty of more than 10 charges. Mr. Ramrattan cajoled false witnesses into saying Seemona Sumasar robbed them at gunpoint, prosecutors said.
* Seemona Sumasar said all along that she was raped by her ex-boyfriend, who then framed her for a series of armed robberies that never took place.
Prosecutors said Mr. Ramrattan hatched his scheme after Ms. Sumasar, right, refused to drop rape charges against him.
On Wednesday, a jury in State Supreme Court in Queens agreed, finding the ex-boyfriend, Jerry Ramrattan, guilty of more than 10 charges, including rape, perjury and conspiracy. Mr. Ramrattan faces more than 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 4.
Using knowledge he gleaned partly from watching television crime dramas like “C.S.I.,” Mr. Ramrattan, a private detective in Queens, orchestrated what prosecutors called the most complex and diabolical frame-up in New York in recent memory.
For Ms. Sumasar, 36, the verdict, following a day and a half of deliberation, brought vindication after a nightmarish experience that had transformed her from rape victim to criminal.
“Now that this is over, I can start my life again,” she said in an interview. “Last year, I spent Thanksgiving inside a jail cell. Jerry told so many lies, and I was imprisoned because authorities had decided to believe him. But I am not bitter. The truth won out in the end.”
As the guilty verdict was announced, Mr. Ramrattan, 39, who had muttered at the prosecution witnesses and smiled at the jury during the trial, sat quietly, staring ahead. Outside the courtroom, Ms. Sumasar’s family leapt in joy.
Prosecutors told the jury that Mr. Ramrattan hatched the scheme after Ms. Sumasar, a former restaurant owner and analyst with Morgan Stanley, refused to drop rape charges against him. They said he intimidated and cajoled false witnesses into telling the authorities that she had dressed as a police officer and robbed them at gunpoint.
While jailed for seven months, until last December, Ms. Sumasar was separated from her young daughter. She lost her restaurant, and her house in Far Rockaway, Queens, went into foreclosure. Her bail was set at $1 million, which she could not afford. Meanwhile, Mr. Ramrattan walked free until an informer came forward and exposed his ruse.
The verdict was a righting of wrongs for the Queens district attorney’s office, which had insisted, along with the Nassau County district attorney’s office, on Ms. Sumasar’s guilt until she was freed from her cell on Long Island just weeks before her own trial was to begin. Legal experts said the case was a cautionary tale of how tunnel vision could infect law enforcement officials, in some cases pushing them to wrongly punish the innocent.
Prosecutors insisted that few could have seen Mr. Ramrattan’s sinister plot.
Frank DeGaetano, an assistant district attorney and the prosecutor in Mr. Ramrattan’s case, alluded to the scale and brutality of his crimes.
“Jerry Ramrattan created a complex web to ensnare Seemona,” Mr. DeGaetano told jurors. “He is unique: who goes to such extremes to destroy a person?”
Mr. Ramrattan’s lawyer, Frank Kelly — whose request for a mistrial, on the grounds that prosecutors did not hand over vital documents, was refused — said he would appeal. During his summation, he accused prosecutors of relying on “a bunch of liars, thieves and manipulators” to make their case.
The nearly month long trial offered two narratives that were difficult to reconcile. Prosecutors portrayed Ms. Sumasar as a single mother charmed by a wily confidence man who ruined her life. But the defense presented Ms. Sumasar as a scorned woman who falsely accused her ex-boyfriend of rape because their relationship had soured.
Members of the jury said the guilty verdict hinged on their belief that Mr. Ramrattan had raped Ms. Sumasar, giving him a motive to set his plot in motion. They said the defense’s argument had seemed to be a smoke screen.
“We believed that she was raped,” said Caryn Eyring-Swick, the jury forewoman. “She didn’t fall apart or crumble on the stand. You could see her jaw tighten. We knew that Ramrattan had done something that would affect his victims forever.”
Jury members said they had not been convinced by the defense’s argument that Ms. Sumasar was a jilted and vengeful woman.
Denise Li, an alternate jury member from Flushing, said the defense’s claim that Ms. Sumasar was set up by underworld characters to whom she owed money seemed like a conspiracy theory conjured by Mr. Ramrattan. She said she had been put off by Mr. Ramrattan’s demeanor in court.
“Ramrattan was so arrogant and smirking during the trial,” Ms. Li said. “He was manipulative and thought so highly of himself, he thought he could get away with it.”
Danielle Stancik, another juror, said the case seemed like Hollywood fiction. “If I had seen this on TV,” she said, “my reaction would be, ‘How could this really happen?’ ”