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Monday, March 17, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Right Tattoo, Wrong Man

     On January 24, 2012, a man walking in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Staten Island [NYC] before 9 AM was approached by a stranger with a knife. The stranger, the man later told the police, took his bag and the chain around his neck, then ran away. The victim was able to get a pretty good look at the robber, and told detectives that he was young and white. And one more thing: he had a big tattoo of a red lightening bolt running down the side of his face.

     The police searched their database of photos of young white men with big red lightening-bolt tattoos on their faces, and they found a match. The name on the picture was Dylan Vok, 28, a Staten Island resident with a short criminal record….The mug shot was released to the press. Word of the search for Dylan Wok and his big red lightening-bolt tattoo spread online, all the way to Detroit and to one incredulous reader in particular: Dylan Vok.

     "In October 2011, I left New York for Detroit," Mr. Vok said in a recent telephone interview. That was months before the robbery. "I had lots of proof of that. I was using a food-stamp card. I had time stamps." He said he could even produce video footage of himself at his job at a New Age chiropractor's office….

     And the tattoo? Mr. Vok said he was briefly in the Army, but had been discharged. "I had flat feet," he said. "I got depressed after." In 2009, his best friend was on his third tour of Iraq. Mr. Vok decided to have the symbol of the devision he himself had briefly been attached to tattooed on his face….

     Mr. Vok offered all sorts of proof of his whereabouts [on the morning of the robbery]. It seemed to have worked. The police informed Mr. Vok that he was no longer a suspect in the crime….

Michael Wilson, "A Suspect With an Incriminating Tattoo Saves Face," The New York Times, March 7, 2014 

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