Oklahoma ex-cop guilty of rape in sex abuse case

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Daniel Holtzclaw: former Oklahoma City police officer guilty of rape.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The latest on the trial of a former police officer in Oklahoma City who has been accused by 13 women of rape or sexual assault (all times are local): A jury has convicted a former Oklahoma City police officer of 18 of the 36 charges he faced related to allegations that he assaulted or victimized 13 women on his beat. Prosecutors alleged that he stopped women on the pretense of checking them for outstanding warrants or drug-related items, then forced them to perform sexual acts. The allegations against Holtzclaw brought new attention to the problem of sexual misconduct committed by law enforcement officers, something police chiefs have studied for years.

Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger told the court that Holtzclaw preyed on vulnerable women — all African American, most with police records — he stopped while on patrol. His victims ranged in age from 17 to 58, and included a 57-year-old grandmother who said she was forced to perform oral sex on him. 12 of the women said they didn’t report the attacks originally, afraid that no one would believe that an officer sexually assaulted them. Some racial justice activists were frustrated that the trial did not generate the same coverage as police-involved shootings that have killed black men. Holtzclaw’s attorney described him as a model police officer whose attempts to help the drug addicts and prostitutes he came in contact with were distorted. At the start of the trial, in early November, local activists were surprised to find the courtroom empty of the women’s groups that have supported accusers in other rape trials.

The first woman to come forward was a grandmother in her 50s, who said Holtzclaw pulled her over during a traffic stop on suspicion of drunken driving. Holtzclaw’s attorney questioned the credibility of the victims during cross-examination, bringing up their criminal records and warrants in attempts to poke holes in their stories. An advocate who watched the trial unfold said the allegations fit a familiar pattern. “Officers count on no one believing the victim if she reports,” said Diane Wetendorf, who runs a counseling group in Chicago for women who are victims of police abuse. “And [they] know that the word of a woman of color is likely to be worth even less than the word of a white woman to those who matter in the criminal justice system.” Indeed, Holtzclaw’s choice of victims laid the groundwork for an aggressive defense. His attorney, Scott Adams, aggressively questioned his accusers about their marijuana use, drinking, thefts, and suspended driver’s licenses in an attempt to undermine their credibility.

In court and in pretrial testimony, however, the 13 accusers told broadly consistent stories about how Holtzclaw isolated them, assaulted them, and terrorized them into silence. One woman accused Holtzclaw of driving her to a field, raping her in the back of his squad car, and leaving her there. “There was nothing that I could do,” she testified. “He was a police officer and I was a woman.” Another of his victims, a 17-year-old girl, testified that Holtzclaw raped her on her mother’s front porch. Jury members will return to the courthouse Thursday morning for their fourth day of work in the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, who faces 36 counts of rape, sexual battery and other charges. The defense called just one witness, a former girlfriend of Holtzclaw’s who testified he never exhibited sexually aggressive or inappropriate behavior around her.

Rachel Anspach, of the African American Policy Forum, considered it a a sign of progress that Holtzclaw’s case even went to trial. “Historically, we’ve seen the justice system hasn’t protected black women from sexual assault,” she said.

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