An estimated 68 percent of rapes go unreported. It’s hard to go a day in the news without another horrible reminder why this is the case—why women correctly assume they’ll be dragged hard in the process of attempting to secure justice—and Katie J.M. Baker’s latest story at BuzzFeed is another example, particularly notable because the rapist in question was, like Daniel Holtzclaw, a cop on duty at the time of the rape.
The assault took place in September 2010. Lindsay, the woman at the center of the story, was looking to get out of her gym job and her parents’ house in Palmdale, Ca. She had an informal interview with a friend who worked at a veterinary practice—an important one, because the job hunt had been “tricky... Lindsay was in the process of contesting a recent DUI charge and had missed a court date, meaning she had not only a suspended driver’s license but a misdemeanor traffic warrant out for her arrest as well.”
On the way home, she was pulled over.
The sheriff’s deputy who asked Lindsay for her license and registration was [Jose] Sanchez, then 25 years old. He asked Lindsay if she knew about her warrant. Lindsay told him she did, but that she was taking care of it, and that she had no other way to get to the job interview. When Sanchez asked her if she had been drinking, she told him the truth: only half a glass of wine her friend had offered her a few hours before. Sanchez gave Lindsay a breathalyzer test, which he told her she failed, although he refused to show her the results. Instead, he told Lindsay he had been watching her at the gas station while he ran her license plate number.
“You’re pretty hot stuff,” he told her, according to depositions. Lindsay asked if he was going to arrest her. “No, but what are you going to do for me?” he asked. That’s when Lindsay started to panic.
Lindsay tried to decline Sanchez’s advances by telling him she had a curfew and a boyfriend, but he told her to get in his car. At first, she thought she was under arrest for not having sex with him, but even that didn’t make sense: Where were the handcuffs? Instead, Sanchez drove Lindsay down a dirt road into the pitch-black desert, where he raped her as she cried.
Lindsay reported the rape the next morning. She told BuzzFeed: “I realized that if he was that comfortable with what happened, it must have happened before, and it was going to happen again.”
Sanchez, who is now serving a nine-year prison term, pulled over and attempted to rape another woman—an undocumented immigrant—two days later, just before he was put on paid leave. The L.A. Sheriff’s Department internal investigations department did not submit Lindsay’s case to the district attorney’s office until January 2011; the DA did not schedule an interview with her until August 2011; the case was reassigned in May 2012, as Lindsay’s lawyers went to court “multiple times” to get a copy of the internal investigation. Sanchez was finally arrested on July 27, 2013: “nearly three years after the rape.”
In April 2014, Sanchez pleaded no contest to rape while under the color of authority (in Lindsay’s case) and soliciting a bribe (in the other). Baker details the harsh evidence collection process that the DA’s office put Lindsay through:
She had to recall every detail — his come-ons, the route to the secluded area where he pushed her onto the hood of his car, how he followed her home afterward — whenever investigators asked her to retell her story. If Lindsay missed a detail or confused the timeline, even after years had passed, they accused her of lying, she said.
“To make sure the story didn’t change, I had to run it through in my head like a movie,” Lindsay told BuzzFeed News
As well as the questions asked by the defense in the civil lawsuit Lindsay filed in 2011 (she won a $6 million settlement this past November): they deposed Lindsay’s “parents, boyfriend, grandmother, and the veterinarian she met the night of her rape.”
They also asked Lindsay if she had ever been a victim of sexual or domestic violence and if she had ever cheated on her boyfriend. They issued over two dozen subpoenas for her employment, medical, educational, and insurance records.
[...] Her parents were asked whether Lindsay had ever accused another person of rape, whether she had ever been to rehab, and whether they had ever had “discussions with Lindsay about her inability to maintain relationships with men.”
Lawyers asked her then-boyfriend about their sex life after the incident.... They asked her veterinarian friend whether Lindsay was “flirtatious” with him on the night of her rape, how far apart they were sitting that night, what Lindsay was wearing, and whether Lindsay had ever been to his house before.
Sanchez, through the whole process, has not acknowledged that he ever raped Lindsay. He was deposed in May 2015 for the civil lawsuit, and claimed his conduct was consensual.
As Baker points out, all police misconduct allegations place an extraordinary legal burden on the part of the victim, but sexual conduct on duty is different; unlike shooting a civilian, having sex with one while on duty cannot possibly be seen as within the scope of the job. And yet the L.A. County police department was willing to spend 5 years and $400,000 fighting against her.
Anthony Luti, an L.A. attorney whose firm has represented clients suing the LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for civil rights violations, said Lindsay’s experience was “all too familiar.”
Great. Read the whole piece here.
Post has been updated to reflect that Sanchez attempted to rape, didn’t actually rape, the second woman.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via Shutterstock