The Manhattan District Attorney has charged Joseph Giardala, 44, with raping and robbing a woman in New York City’s West Village in 1995. New York couldn’t identify Giardala by name after the rape, but entered his DNA into a national database, where it matched with a case in Florida earlier this year. In the years since allegedly raping a 25-year-old woman at knifepoint, Giardala has lived in at least eleven different U.S. states and appears to have traveled out of the country dozens of times. He was arrested in Los Angeles carrying almost a dozen driver’s licenses and credit cards in different names.
According to a press release from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office, Giardala was indicted on Friday, May 1, for an attack that took place on the night of January 23, 1995. He’s accused of following the victim as she walked home from the movies, then forcing her into a vestibule of building, where he raped and robbed her while threatening her with a knife.
The victim went to a nearby hospital, where a rape kit was performed. And then the kit sat untouched in evidence along with 17,000 other rape kits until 2000, when New York was the first city to embark on a project to clear its rape kit backlog. By 2003, the city had cleared its backlog; the DNA matches led to them indicting 49 people on cold case charges. The DA’s office says those people are serving a combined 900 years in prison. In November of 2014, Vance’s office pledged $35 million to clear the rape kit backlog in other cities nationwide.
At the same time, New York did something unusual to stop the clock on the statute of limitations in felony rape cases: it indicted not people, but DNA profiles. Giardala, like 23 other people, was charged with rape in 2003 as “John Doe with the DNA profile of [X].” His DNA was also entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). When he was arrested in Florida and his DNA was entered into CODIS again, they found a match.
Police haven’t said what he was charged with in Florida; an unnamed law enforcement source told the New York Times the alleged crime was not a sexual offense. A man by that name was arrested in January in Palm Beach and charged with petit theft and battery on an officer for allegedly biting a security guard on the hand after stealing money from a fountain. A photograph the Wall Street Journal took on Friday of Giardala entering court bears a striking resemblance to the alleged guard-biting, change-stealing Giardala of Palm Beach fame.
Giardala’s case is unusual, both because of how he was found and because of his utterly baffling movements across the country in the past 20 years. At his arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges said Giardala received about $900 a month in government benefits, and that in the past five months, his EBT card was used in Florida, New Jersey, Manhattan and Los Angeles. In 2014, he used it in Washington D.C., New Mexico and Washington; since 2009, he looks to have been in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Massachussetts, New Jersey, California and Florida.
Mourges also testified that in the past year—from April 2014 to April 2015—Giardala purchased a whopping 230 Delta Airlines tickets, departing and arriving from a long list of airports in an eyebrow-raising number of countries: LaGuardia and JFK in New York, Palm Beach, Miami, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Detroit, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Burbank, Stockholm, Zurich, Switzerland, Sao Paolo, Argentina, Chile, London, Amsterdam, Romania, Dublin, Minneapolis, Anchorage, Japan, Guam, Russia, Brussels, Czech Republic, Copenhagen, Memphis, Newark, Peru, Cyprus, Portland Oregon, and Honolulu. There are also the multiple different licenses and credit cards Giardala was carrying when he was arrested in Los Angeles.
Giardala is charged with six felony counts: rape, robbery, sodomy, attempted rape, and two count of first-degree sexual abuse. If convicted, he faces many, many years in prison.
Cyrus Vance in November 2014, announcing the $35 million rape kit backlog pledge. He’s joined by Law and Order SVU actress Mariska Hargitay, founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, which works to eradicate the backlog. Photo via AP