Stories about rogue police officers who frame innocent Black people and the prosecutors who put them away for crimes they didn’t commit abound across the country. People with prior criminal records are often the easiest for corrupt cops to set up.
That was true in Michigan for a man who was jailed for months this year for alleged sexual assault. To add insult to injury, the prosecutor delayed dropping the charges even though they allegedly knew Xavier Jajuan Davis was innocent, he recently told NewsOne.
Davis was cleared of wrongdoing through DNA evidence and is now speaking out. He’s been fighting to clear his name and get compensated for malicious prosecution, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment through a federal lawsuit.
“I felt targeted because of my criminal history and being African-American,” Davis said. “Never did I think I’d be in jail for a crime I didn’t commit. But it could happen to anybody.”
Davis was cleared of the charges from December 2017, but not before he sat behind bars for five months in Grand Rapids. He filed a federal lawsuit in October.
“I lost everything by going to jail,” Davis, 32, emphasized. “I lost my job and was homeless when I got out of jail.”
Davis’ first court hearing was scheduled for Jan. 8.
Cases of police targeting innocent Black men with criminal records sometimes attract national attention. In November, for example, a federal judge sentenced former a police chief in Florida to three years in prison for directing his officers to frame Black men for unsolved burglaries. In that case, Raimundo Atesiano instructed his cops to pin the crimes on those who “have somewhat of a record.” Another widely publicized instance involved a former officer in Baltimore’s troubled police department who was indicted on criminal charges after a body camera video appeared to show him staging the discovery of drugs near an arrest scene.
Davis was cleared of the charges in July after DNA tests showed he was never at the scene of the crime.
“Despite having clear exculpatory evidence for the rape case dating back to February of 2018, the charges against Mr. Davis were not dismissed until July 23, 2018,” his lawsuit states. “Defendants knew or should have known that there was not probable cause to arrest and charge Mr. Davis, causing him to be held in jail for 129 days and then placed on a tether for another 61 days.”
The accusations of wrongdoing stem from police allegedly convincing at least one of the rape victims that Davis was her attacker based on a police sketch. Phone records and Uber records also supported his innocence, his lawsuit argues. It was unclear if the police ever arrested the actual rapist.
“I warned them during interrogation that this was a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Davis said he recalled telling investigators at the time.
However, a Kent County prosecutor reportedly had no regrets about prosecuting Davis, who was already well-known by the local law enforcement. Davis received a 15-month prison sentence in 2012 for attempted home invasion and was convicted twice for peeping through windows.
Despite his existing criminal record, Davis said being falsely accused of a sex crime made his reputation worse behind bars and threatened his safety.
“People in jail thought I was a rapist and assaulted me because of those charges. I have to have surgery on my tooth because of an assault,” Davis said. “When I first got out of jail people called me a rapist. People on Facebook referred to me as a rapist.”
Even after his exoneration, finding work was still a challenge, he said. Potential employers conducting background checks can still find online articles about his rape arrest, forcing him to give a long explanation.
Prosecutors involved in wrongful conviction cases have occasionally admitted their mistakes and ask for forgiveness. That’s what happened to one man who spent 40 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. But that appeared unlikely for Davis.
“I probably wouldn’t accept their apology, anyway,” he stated.