The CIA decided Mr. Harding's skills were not required, that for whatever reasons, he would not make a good operative. It took 15 months for them to relay Harding's incredible disclosures to New York State Police headquarters in Albany. That's when the plot began to unravel.
The Governor of New York appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations. Harding was investigated, charged, and pleaded guilty to perjury committed in four separate trials. One of the cases involved a vicious assault on an elderly man. A suspect in the assault was informed that police (Harding) had lifted his fingerprint from the victim's sink. Faced with that highly incriminating evidence, the suspect confessed to the crime. At trial, Harding testified that he had lifted the incriminating print from the victim's sink. The FBI crime lab determined that to be a false assertion. Harding then admitted that he had lifted the print from a beer bottle found in the suspect's home.
In another case, Harding was asked to go undercover in order to obtain exemplars of prints from a murder suspect. Harding announced that he had obtained the prints and matched them to the crime scene. A SWAT team was then dispatched to arrest the suspect. In the course of the operation, the suspect was shot dead. One year later another man confessed to the crime, giving police intimate details of the crime scene that could only have been known by the murderer.
The investigation widened when Harding's partner, Robert Lishansky, admitted to manufacturing fingerprint evidence in 321 separate cases--300 of which he worked alone. The other 21 cases involved other troopers. Lieutenant Craig D. Harvey, of the state police, recently pleaded not guilty on a 116 count indictment charging falsification of evidence. Lt. Harvey had direct supervisory responsibility over officers Harding and Lishansky. The investigation continues.
In response to the scandal, the New York State Police are instituting "sweeping reforms" to insure that future evidence is not falsified, including a requirement that two troopers sign all crime scene reports. In light of the fact that many of the cases to date involve more than one officer, these reforms may not prevent the practice in the future.
Prisoners in New York State whose convictions hinged on physical (fingerprint) evidence may want to look into this issue further.
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