OKLAHOMA CITY – A former Oklahoma City police officer was convicted Thursday of rape related to accusations that he victimized 13 women on his police beat in a minority, low-income neighborhood.
Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, faces a possible sentence of life in prison because of the conviction. He also faced more than 30 counts, including sexual battery and forcible oral sodomy.
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.
During a monthlong trial, jurors heard from 13 women who said Holtzclaw sexually victimized them. Most of them said Holtzclaw stopped them while out on patrol, searched them for outstanding warrants or checked to see if they were carrying drug paraphernalia, then forced himself on them.
Prosecutors said in their closing arguments that many of the accusers have had troubled lives but that the law protects them as much as anyone else. 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.
Holtzclaw did not take the stand.
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. She said he ordered her into the backseat of his squad car, where he exposed himself and told her to perform oral sex.
Holtzclaw's youngest accuser was 17 at the time of the attack. She accused him of escorting her to the front door of her mother's house. There, she said, he pulled down her shorts and raped her.
Police said they used the GPS in Holtzclaw's car and police databases to confirm he had been in contact with many of the women.
But despite the number of victims, the case presented prosecutors with several challenges.
Many of the women had arrest records or histories of drug abuse. Most hailed from the same neighborhoods in the shadow of the state Capitol. Two women took the stand wearing handcuffs and orange scrubs because they had recently been jailed on drug charges. Another woman admitted on the stand to slipping out of her motel room the night before and procuring marijuana and the hallucinogen PCP.
Holtzclaw's attorney, Scott Adams, made those issues a cornerstone of his defense strategy. Adams questioned several women at length about whether they were high when they allegedly encountered Holtzclaw. He also pointed out that most did not come forward until police identified them as possible victims after launching their investigation.
Ultimately, that approach did not sway the jury to dismiss the women's stories.
All of the women are black. Holtzclaw is half-white, half-Japanese. The jury appeared to all be white, though Oklahoma court officials said they did not have race information for jurors. Some supporters of the women questioned whether the jury would fairly judge their allegations.