Both crying with their arms wrapped around each other, Ronald and Kristy Bower embraced for the first time outside prison walls in more than 23 years.
“I love you dad, you’re finally home-free,” she told him.
“I love you so much,” Ron replied as a light rain began to fall outside Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate Dannemora, just south of the Canadian border. “Everything’s gonna be alright.”
Ronald Bower, 53, has spent the last quarter-century in prison for sex crimes that an ever-growing number of law enforcement officials believe he did not commit. A convicted Level 3 sex offender, Bower has become the center of a politically charged firestorm following a December 2013 letter from the then-New York State Attorney General Office’s conviction review bureau chief, Thomas Schellhammer, stating that it’s “highly unlikely that Bower committed the crimes for which he was convicted.”
Released just in time for Father’s Day, Bower granted the Press exclusive access to the family’s long-sought reunion.
Soon after his release, in his first interview as a free man, Bower continued professing his innocence—something he’s done since his arrest mid-shift as a security guard at Douglaston Mall on May 10, 1991—breaking down several times along with his daughter as he departed the grounds of what’s referred to as “New York’s Siberia.” His face strewn with tears, her hand in his, he thanked his supporters, including his longtime lawyer, Jeremy Goldberg, the Nassau Legal Aid Society’s appeals bureau chief.
“I just want the victims to know that I’m an innocent man, and it deeply bothers me that they believe the last 23 years that I’m guilty of these crimes,” Bower emphatically cried out. “I didn’t do anything to you or anybody. And I’m also a victim of the crimes against all of you.”
Watch Ronald Bower’s attorney’s plea to sex crimes victims in Nassau and Queens HERE.
Besides Schellhammer—who has since been replaced following backlash from the offices of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who’s currently running for Congress—supporters include current or former members of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the state Division of Criminal Justice Services and members of the sex crimes unit who originally arrested him. They believe the true perpetrator is a former New York City police officer named Michael Perez.
Perez, who shared similar physical characteristics with Bower, was acquitted of two sex attacks involving a silver .38-caliber revolver—one of nearly a dozen weapons which he owned, according to court documents.
Ultimately, Bower was sentenced to 18-to-54 years for two such attacks in Queens and Nassau attributed to an assailant dubbed “The Silver Gun Rapist.” Yet, despite Bower’s arrest, the pattern attacks continued.
Unbeknownst to Bower, who didn’t own a gun at the time of the sex attacks, he has recently become a political football in the re-election campaign of state Democratic Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and his Republican challenger, John Cahill.
Thursday, shortly after his 8 a.m. release, Ronald Bower emerged from prison carrying a large fishnet bag full of two decades’ worth of correspondence, photos and holiday cards as his daughter, Kristy, raced toward him in the rain.
“I feel like I just won the Powerball,” said a joyous Ronald, his face awash in tears. “It feels like a 50-pound weight has been lifted off my chest. I’m so happy to be released from prison and to see my daughter so happy to see her father finally be free.” Her words were overwhelming with such happiness and relief knowing that her dad was finally released from prison.
“The moment that I have been long awaiting, to hold my father outside of the prison walls, was more than I could have ever imagined,” smiled an emotional Kristy, who was just 4 years old when her dad was arrested. “The fight will still continue until my father is finally exonerated.”
The Bowers and Ronald’s attorney Goldberg ask for privacy to enjoy Father’s Day weekend once again as a family.
“Ron will now be able to spend Father’s Day with his remarkable daughter Kristy,” says Goldberg. “On behalf of Ron, I ask that their privacy be respected for at least a short time while, with the support of those who know him to be innocent, he tries to adjust to the new and challenging realities that he now faces.”