Here's Looking at You

From downtown to Uptown, shop clerks trade stories about the man with the scary stare. But John Fitzgerald Wyche says his only crime is being a nice guy.

According to the complaint, on October 22, police were called to the downtown library to remove an "unwanted person." A security guard pointed the officers to Wyche, who "created a disturbance" and was arrested for disorderly conduct. The library's Alex Wakal says the guard also suggested that Wyche matched the description police had circulated of the Northeast Minneapolis rapist. Police took Wyche's picture, put together a photographic lineup, and brought in the victim, who identified Wyche as her assailant. Wyche was taken into custody and remained there until the first hearing in the case, January 15.

That day, however, brought another surprise: Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Mark Hammer asked the judge for a continuance. The seminal fluid taken from Wyche's alleged victim did not contain sperm, the prosecutor explained, and the county was having trouble extracting DNA from the samples. (According to Hammer's argument, genetic material is commonly found in seminal fluid but is not as easy to detect as that of sperm.) Hammer said more tests had to be conducted.

A subsequent KMSP-TV (Channel 9) report featured Wyche's mug shot and an image of a test tube with the caption "No DNA!" Reporter Tom Lyden also noted that Wyche was "known as the perfume pervert" for the way he sniffed at scented items in Pier 1 Imports.

After the hearing, Wyche was released on the condition that he stay out of legal trouble and away from both the downtown library and the scene of the alleged crime. But Wyche found himself back in jail nine days later, when employees at the Uptown Caribou Coffee shop reported to police that he "was verbally harassing [a] female employee and customer." (Wyche flatly denies the accusation. "They said that I told her, 'Make it [the coffee] slow so I can watch you.' There's an unbelievableness to that sort of comment.")

When Wyche appeared in court for his February 23 hearing, the county dropped the rape charge. Prosecutors won't comment on the results of any additional lab tests they conducted; all County Attorney Amy Klobuchar will say is that the victim declined to testify, and her office has decided it doesn't have enough of a case. "We had an uncooperative victim, along with insufficient physical evidence of the assault, and no witnesses," she explains.

The rape charge was dismissed without prejudice--meaning it could be raised again if more evidence is found. At the same hearing, the judge addressed the misdemeanor charges from Wyche's previous arrests, ordering him to stay away from Uptown until his next court date, scheduled for today, March 3.

Regardless of the outcome of that hearing, Wyche says, he's not sure he'd care to go back to Uptown. "It's practical now for me not to go there," he says. "I took that little chance in January, and I got cuffs put on me. It was a regrettable experience."

His time in jail, however, seems to have afforded him a measure of perspective, even allowing him to contemplate the anonymous leafletters' motives. "People might think they're doing the right thing--you know, 'So many people are getting off on serious charges.' But all it takes is one accusation, and if you've got a checkered past, people think you're capable of any crime.

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