A former mall security guard who maintained his innocence while serving more than 22 years behind bars for a string of sex crimes in Nassau and Queens has been released from prison.
The state parole board in March decided to release Ronald Bower, 53, of Queens, but he remained imprisoned at the upstate Clinton Correctional Facility until Thursday.
Bower was discharged about 8:30 a.m., according to Linda Foglia, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Bower has always said police and prosecutors convicted the wrong man, and a chorus of law enforcement officials questioned his guilt in recent years.
Jeremy Goldberg, Nassau Legal Aid Society appeals bureau chief, said his client's release on parole is "not a happy resolution" because Bower remains a Level 3 sex offender -- the most serious classification. "We're, of course, overjoyed that Mr. Bower has finally been released from his undeserved incarceration," he said. "The hard work of having him completely exonerated still lies before us and will continue to be pursued. The only happy ending will be complete exoneration."
Bower, then a 30-year-old father of two with no criminal record, was arrested in May 1991 at the Queens mall where he worked as a security guard.
His lawyers have said police made him wear a sweatshirt that looked like the one worn by the attacker in the sex crimes before they photographed him and included him in suspect lineups.
He was later charged with sex crimes against young women and girls in western Nassau and eastern Queens and convicted.
Bower's lawyers have long accused Nassau prosecutors of failing to disclose information that then-NYPD Officer Michael Perez, who looked like Bower, was being investigated for similar crimes at the same time.
The effort to free him was renewed in December, when Thomas Schellhammer, then chief of state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's conviction-review bureau, wrote the parole board, saying "it appears highly unlikely that Bower committed the crimes for which he was convicted."
The state board granted parole, citing the attorney general's recommendation.
Afterward, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice asked the board to "re-examine its decision" while it "conducts a comprehensive investigation" of Bower's case.
In May, when Bower faced a hearing on his status as a sex offender, Harlan Levy, Schneiderman's chief deputy, backed off the attorney general's initial conclusion. He said the contention that Bower was not guilty "is not supported by the evidence."
on Bower's release.
Without parole, Bower would have been in prison until May 2041. With Yancey Roy