After four days of deliberation, former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, was found guilty on Thursday. Eighteen guilty verdicts were handed down from 36 total counts that included rape, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy, burglary, stalking, indecent exposure and procuring lewd exhibition. He was brought to court by 13 female accusers, aged 17 to 58, all black and poor women who say he abused his power to sexually assault them while working the night shift.
All thirteen testified during the five-week trial. Holtzclaw faced an all-white jury, which recommended he serve a 30-year sentence on each of four first-degree rape convictions and 263 years total, according to the Associated Press.
For all but one of the victims, Holtzclaw allegedly used his position to run background checks to learn of outstanding warrants or criminal histories — many for prostitution or drug use — as a means to coerce sex, telling the women they’d go to jail unless they performed the sexual acts. The youngest victim, 17, said she was walking in her neighborhood with friends when she was stopped by Holtzclaw, who said there was a warrant out for her arrest, but that he was letting her go. He approached her again later that day and raped her on the front porch of her mother’s house, an encounter marked by DNA evidence on the zipper of Holtzclaw’s pants. One woman claimed Holtzclaw promised to take her to detox but instead raped her before letting her go. Another said she was raped by the ex-cop after he said, “This is what you are going to have to do. I don’t want to take you to jail.”
“There was nothing that I could do,” said an accuser on the stand. “He was a police officer and I was a woman.” Buzzfeed published full testimonies from all of the women in a comprehensive post this week.
Many of the victims chose to not report the attacks in fear they they would not be believed. During closing arguments earlier this week, Assistant District Attorney Lori McConnell argued that Holtzclaw targeted vulnerable victims. “He counted on the fact no one would believe them and no one would care,” she said. “He was sexually stimulated by using his power to make them show their private parts to him.” Prosecutors also argued that Holtzclaw’s behavior grew bolder with each incident.
Holtzclaw did not contest that he encountered the 13 women, but denied assaulting them. During the trial, jurors were shown a June 2014 interogation video wherein Holtzclaw denied claims that he forced a woman to expose her breasts and perform oral sex on him at a 2 a.m. traffic stop by saying, “That’s not me.” Holtzclaw admitted to making the stop, but was off-duty at the time and with his GPS turned off, which is against department protocol (as are body searches of female suspects by male officers). “I don’t want this reputation,” he told detectives. “I’m a good officer … I don’t want this to fall on my rep.” He was fired from the Oklahoma City police department in January after his arrest in August 2014 and was placed on house arrest, which he violated.
Holtzclaw’s behavior first came under investigation after a June 2014 report was filed to the Oklahoma City sex crimes division by a 57-year-old daycare worker who said she was pulled over by the officer on suspicion of drunk driving after playing dominos in her neighborhood. Though she said that she hadn’t been drinking, Holtzclaw asked her to step out of the car and sit on a curb, where he forced her to expose her breasts and perform oral sex on him with his gun in plain view.
The credibility of the victims was attacked throughout the case by defense attorney Scott Adams, who said the women “don’t care about the truth” and that they were less “perfect victims” than “perfect accusers.” Adams called Holtzclaw, who did not testify in his own defense, an “all American good guy.”
After the guilty verdicts were read, the mother of the youngest victim called police sexual misconduct “a problem for the nation.” A year-long study released by the AP in November found that 1,000 officers in the United States lost their licenses over a six-year period for sexual misconduct or sex crimes. Holtzclaw’s case was included in the study.
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