A former police officer convicted of raping and sexually victimizing women while on his beat in a low-income Oklahoma City neighborhood was ordered Thursday to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Jurors had recommended that Daniel Holtzclaw be sentenced to 263 years in prison for preying on women in 2013 and 2014. District Judge Timothy Henderson agreed, ordering Holtzclaw to serve the terms consecutively and denying his request for an appeal bond.
Holtzclaw waived his right to remain in custody in the county jail for 10 days, instead opting to be taken directly to prison. Defense attorney Scott Adams said Holtzclaw would appeal.
“It is what it is,” Adams said. “It wasn’t a surprise.”
Oklahoma County District Attorney Scott Prater had strong words for Holtzclaw, who was convicted last month on 18 counts, including four first-degree rape counts as well as forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery, procuring lewd exhibition and second-degree rape. Holtzclaw was acquitted on 18 other counts.
“I think people need to realize that this is not a law-enforcement officer that committed these crimes. This is a rapist who masqueraded as a law-enforcement officer,” Prater said. “If he was a true law enforcement officer he would have upheld his duty to protect those citizens rather than victimize them.”
Prosecutors said Holtzclaw targeted black women in neighborhoods east and north of the state Capitol building. During the month-long trial, 13 women testified against him, and several said Holtzclaw stopped them, checked them for outstanding warrants or drug paraphernalia, and then forced himself on them.
All of the accusers were black. Holtzclaw is half-white, half-Japanese, and the son of a longtime Enid, Oklahoma, police officer.
Holtzclaw’s attorney had described the former college football star as a model officer whose attempts to help the drug addicts and prostitutes he came in contact with were distorted. Adams also attacked the credibility of some of the women, who had arrest records and histories of drug abuse, noting that many didn’t come forward until police had already identified them as possible victims after launching their investigation.
Holtzclaw’s victims included a teenager and woman in her 50s. Three accusers delivered victim-impact statements Thursday, and at least one other was in the courtroom.
Jannie Ligons, whose complaint in June 2014 launched the investigation of Holtzclaw, said she has been under stress because of the case and the fear of being sexually assaulted again. “My daughter and sisters are frightful when a police car pulls up behind them,” Ligons said.
The Associated Press does not identify victims of sex crimes without their consent, but she was among two women who spoke publicly about the case and agreed to be identified.
Another woman, who was 17 at the time of the assault, said her “life has been upside down” since Holtzclaw raped her on the front porch of her mother’s home.
“It’s been hard on my family. It’s been hard on me,” she told the court. “Every time I see the police, I don’t even know what to do. I don’t ever go outside, and when I do I’m terrified.”
Several of Holtzclaw’s victims have filed civil lawsuits against Holtzclaw and the city in state and federal court.
Thursday’s hearing was delayed by a few hours as Holtzclaw and attorneys met with the judge over the defense’s request for a new trial or evidentiary hearing, but after hearing testimony from another officer, Henderson rejected the request and moved on to witness statements.
The Associated Press highlighted Holtzclaw’s case in a yearlong examination of sexual misconduct by law officers, which found that about 1,000 officers in the U.S. lost their licenses for sex crimes or other sexual misconduct over a six-year period.
Those figures are likely an undercount, because not every state has a process to ban problem officers from law enforcement. In states that do decertify officers, reporting requirements vary.