Over a week ago, five of Daniel Holtzclaw’s victims filed suit against Oklahoma City and its police department alleging that the police department allowed Holtzclaw to continue active duty work after a sexual assault complaint was lodged. According to The Guardian, the lawsuit counters the narrative presented at Holtzclaw’s trial, a “clear-cut picture” of “a predator who exploited the uniform” and “detectives who worked decisively to stop him.” Instead, the lawsuit contends that the police department failed to act on clear “signs that there was a predator in their ranks.”
Since the initial filing, two more victims have been added to the suit, bringing the total to seven plaintiffs. While this is not the first lawsuit brought against the police department as a result of Holtzclaw’s crimes—57-year-old daycare worker Jannie Ligons filed suit in December—the Guardian reports that it is “by far the most expansive, as it offers a damning set of new claims.”
In the most pivotal new allegation to emerge, the lawsuit claims police covered up a complaint of sexual assault made 38 days before Holtzclaw was suspended. That complaint, supposedly made on 11 May 2014, has never been reported before this lawsuit.
Ligons too has alleged that prior to her assault in June 2014, the Oklahoma City police department had ignored a previous claim made in May and left Holtzclaw on active duty. But the new lawsuit pushes that date back even further, claiming that a woman accused Holtzclaw of sexual assault on November 5, 2013. The Oklahoma City police sex crimes unit began investigating Holtzclaw on May 8, 2014. The Guardian notes:
The timing...would mean Holtzclaw attacked half the women he has been convicted of assaulting while he was under investigation for sexual assault.
For their part, the Oklahoma City police department has argued that Holtzclaw was suspended as soon as there was enough evidence, pointing out that he was taken off duty hours after Ligons filed her complaint. The lawsuit, however, contends that Ligons’s complaint was only taken seriously because she had a “familial” relationship with the department.
The women are seeking damages of $75,000 each as well as punitive damages. They are also asking that Oklahoma City police receive sexual assault training, overhaul their sexual assault investigative practices, and be required to wear body cameras.
On December 10, Holtzclaw was convicted of 18 of 36 charges for raping and sexually assaulting 13 black women. During his trial, the prosecution contended that he purposefully targeted vulnerable women, using their criminal records as leverage. If the allegations in the two lawsuits are true, it looks like Holtzclaw was correct in assuming that his colleagues would dismiss and ignore their claims.
Image via AP.