OKLAHOMA CITY — The 13 women who have accused a now-fired Oklahoma City police officer of sexually victimizing them have holes in their stories or histories with crime and drug addiction that undermine their credibility, the former officer's attorney said Tuesday at the start of his trial.
"Each and every one of these people have street smarts like you can't even imagine," said Scott Adams, the attorney for 28-year-old Daniel Holtzclaw, in describing the people who came forward after Holtzclaw was first accused of sexual assault.
Holtzclaw faces 36 counts of rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and other charges that carry a possible sentence of life in prison.
He was arrested in August 2014, two months after a woman in her 50s alerted police that an officer had assaulted her as she drove home from a friend's place after a night of playing dominoes. The woman testified at a hearing last year that Holtzclaw pulled her over and accused her of drunken driving. She said he told her to get into the back seat of his patrol car, where he stood over her, exposed himself to her and directed her to perform oral sex.
Sex-crimes detectives have testified they identified and interviewed women Holtzclaw had searched or been in contact with during his 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift. They used GPS records from his patrol car to place him at the scene of the alleged incidents.
Eventually, 13 people accused Holtzclaw of misconduct: 12 women and a 17-year-old girl.
The teenager testified last year that Holtzclaw groped her outside her house, ostensibly to search for drugs, then pulled down her shorts and raped her. The Associated Press does not generally identify victims of sexual assault.
Another woman previously testified that Holtzclaw drove her to an abandoned, trash-filled speck of an impoverished Oklahoma City neighborhood in the shadow of the state Capitol. There, in a place locals call "Dead Man's Curve," the woman said Holtzclaw told her she could either submit to oral sex and intercourse, or go to jail.
Prosecutor Gayland Gieger accused Holtzclaw of becoming "more bold, more brazen and more violent" in the months leading up to the first accusation.
But Adams said Holtzclaw wouldn't contest that he came into contact with the women or even arrested some of them, only that he exploited them.
He said the woman whose report sparked the investigation had smoked marijuana and used pain medication just before her encounter with the officer. In brief testimony Tuesday before court adjourned, the woman admitted to taking a hit of marijuana, but said she wasn't high when Holtzclaw pulled her over.
With the broad-shouldered former college football star sitting behind him, Adams described Holtzclaw's transition into law enforcement after a failed attempt to play in the NFL.
He called Holtzclaw a young, vigilant officer who cared about meeting people in the community and unfairly "turned out to be the villain."
"He was proud of what he did," Adams said. "He was proud to wear the badge."
Holtzclaw's case was among those profiled by the AP in a yearlong investigation that revealed about 1,000 law enforcement officers had lost their licenses over a six-year period for sex crimes and other sexual misconduct. The AP's finding is undoubtedly an undercount of the problem of sexual abuse in law enforcement. Not every state has a process for stripping problem officers of their licenses, known as decertification. And of those states that do, great variations exist in whether officers are prosecuted or reported to their state licensing boards.
The AP's study looked only at officers who had been decertified between 2009 and 2014; Holtzclaw is not among that count.
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