Oklahoma court upholds sentence for ex-cop convicted of rape

KEN MILLEr, Associated Press
Oklahoma court upholds rape sentence for former police officer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A court on Thursday upheld the rape and sexual assault convictions and 263-year prison sentence of a former Oklahoma City police officer whose case has been watched closely by the Black Lives Matter movement and some conservatives.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously rejected appeals by Daniel Holtzclaw that included a lack of evidence, excessive sentence, prosecutorial misconduct, a “circus atmosphere” during his trial and a failure by the defense attorney to present an expert to offer an alternative explanation to how DNA of one victim wound up on Holtzclaw’s pants.

Holtzclaw’s family said in a statement that it is devastated by the ruling, but not surprised. Holtzclaw’s father, Eric Holtzclaw, said the family plans to file a new round of appeals in federal court, a process family members said could take more than a decade.

“We will fight for Daniel until he is free,” his sister, Jenny Holtzclaw, told reporters. She said her brother was convicted because of “biased claims” by prosecutors and fabricated accusations by “unreliable accusers.”

“He deserves freedom. He is innocent of all charges that were brought against him,” Jenny Holtzclaw said.

Prosecutors alleged Holtzclaw, 32, targeted black women and girls while on duty. He was convicted in 2015 on 18 charges involving seven women and one girl that occurred in 2013 and 2014. He was acquitted on similar charges involving five other women.

The DNA of one of the accusers was found on Holtzclaw’s pants, but his appeals attorneys argued that could have gotten there through “secondary transfer” when he searched the 17-year-old’s purse. Holtzclaw argued that because his DNA was not found on his own pants, the pants were not properly tested and that the presence of his DNA mixed with that of the girl would support his claim of a secondary transfer.

But the court found that Holtzclaw failed to show how such evidence would support any theory of how the girl’s DNA got onto his pants.

Questions about DNA evidence were kept under seal by the court for 17 months because of personnel records that are confidential under Oklahoma law.

“This case involved a sexual predator who happened to be employed, most unfortunately, as an Oklahoma City police officer,” Presiding Judge David B. Lewis wrote in a specially concurring opinion to the 5-0 ruling.

“He used his position of authority to intimidate and prey on vulnerable victims,” Lewis wrote. “His arguments attacking the convictions are … unavailing.”

In a statement, Jenny Holtzclaw took particular issue with Lewis’ comments.

“We vehemently disagree with the vicious and false assertion in Judge David Lewis’s concurrence that Daniel was a ‘sexual predator’ who abused his authority. It was detectives and prosecutors who abused their authority to manufacture false allegations against Daniel,” she said.

Eric Holtzclaw became emotional while describing the impact the case has had on his son and other family members.

“We know he’s innocent, that’s the big thing. He is 100% adamant about it. Our family is…it’s tough,” he said, fighting back tears. “We’re devastated, it’s no doubt about it.”

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, whose office prosecuted the case, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Alex Gerszewski, spokesman for state Attorney General Mike Hunter, whose office handled the appeal, declined comment, noting that the case is ongoing because Holtzclaw could appeal Thursday’s decision.

The executive director of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City, the Rev. T Sheri Dickerson, said Holtzclaw was convicted because he is guilty.

“I celebrated in the fact that justice continues to be served,” Dickerson said. “The wheels of justice turned correctly.”

A 2015 Associated Press investigation highlighting the case found about 1,000 officers in the U.S. lost their licenses for sexual misconduct over a six-year period — considered an undercount because some states don’t have a method for banning problem officers.

KEN MILLEr, Associated Press“Oklahoma court upholds sentence for ex-cop convicted of rape”, https://www.yahoo.com/news/court-rule-appeal-ex-oklahoma-043509250.html

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Former Oklahoma police officer arrested for sexual assault during traffic stop

 by Jessica Remer

Jerry “Jay” Gragg Jr. is being charged with one count of forcible sodomy, two counts of sexual battery and one count of an officer accepting a bribe, according to OSBI. (OSBI)

PITTSBURG COUNTY, Okla. (KTUL) — A former Oklahoma police officer is facing sexual assault charges stemming from a January traffic stop.

Jerry “Jay” Gragg Jr. was arrested Tuesday by a Pittsburg County deputy and special agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations at the OSBI McAlester field office.

Gragg is being charged with one count of forcible sodomy, two counts of sexual battery and one count of an officer accepting a bribe.

According to OSBI, a woman made allegations against Gragg following a Jan. 21 traffic stop when he worked as a police officer for the Pittsburg County town of Savanna.

During the traffic stop, OSBI says Gragg told the female driver she had a suspended license and unless she paid her fine in full he would take her to jail. When she didn’t have enough money, he made sexual advances toward her.

After the encounter, OSBI says the woman spoke to friends and her pastor, then came forward with the allegations, producing a blouse she was wearing during the traffic stop. OSBI matched DNA from the woman’s shirt to Gragg, who provided a sample during an earlier interview at which time he denied all allegations.

After his arrest Tuesday, Gragg was booked into the Pittsburg County Jail.

 

http://ktul.com/news/local/oklahoma-police-officer-arrested-for-sexual-assault-during-traffic-stop?platform=hootsuite

Police officer arrested for alleged sex offense

PURCELL (AP) – State investigators say a Blanchard police officer honored two weeks ago by the governor for saving a woman’s life has been arrested for an alleged sex offense involving a minor.

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The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said Friday that 30-year-old officer Jordan Jones was arrested on complaints of solicitation of a minor with the use of technology, receipt of child pornography and violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.

http://www.swoknews.com/area/police-officer-arrested-alleged-sex-offense?platform=hootsuite

Carter Co. Sheriff resigns, pleads guilty to bribery

ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) – Carter County Sheriff Milton Anthony resigned effective immediately pleaded guilty to a felony bribery count in district court Monday afternoon.

In exchange, Anthony was given two years unsupervised probation and forced to forfeit his CLEET certification, meaning he can no longer work in law enforcement in Oklahoma.

Anthony faced the charge after a female sheriff’s office employee came forward, alleging that she was having sex with Anthony in exchange to keep her job and her husband’s job as a deputy at the sheriff’s office.

In exchange for his guilty plea, the state dropped a felony sexual battery count in a separate incident. Another female employee alleged Anthony grazed her breast in a conference room after a meeting.

Anthony’s attorney entered an Alford plea, which is a guilty plea in criminal court, whereby a defendant in a criminal case does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence.

The Oklahoma Attorney’s General Office dropped its separate civil case against Anthony when he agreed to resign Monday. In July, he agreed to a suspension with pay. Deputy John Ryan was appointed interim sheriff.

Anthony had sought re-election until he removed himself from the general election ballot back in August. Chris Bryant, who won the Republican Primary, will take office in January.

http://www.kxii.com/content/news/Anthony-pleads-guilty-avoids-jail-time-400292131.html?platform=hootsuite

Oklahoma County sheriff’s deputy arrested for first-degree rape

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma County sheriff’s deputy was arrested for first-degree rape over the weekend.

Authorities say Eutt Sharp was arrested on Saturday after a woman reported she was raped by an Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Sharp has since been fired from the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.

“Immediately after learning of Sharp’s confession and subsequent arrest, I terminated his employment,” said Sheriff John Whetsel. “We have zero tolerance for anyone who betrays the trust of our citizens. He wore a badge, and I am extremely upset and disappointed in his conduct.”

Sharp had been with the department since February 2014.

Sharp was also a school resource officer for an Edmond school.

However, authorities confirmed the rape allegations are not connected to the school in any way.

The Oklahoma City Police Department is expected to release more information later.

http://kfor.com/2016/10/31/oklahoma-county-sheriffs-deputy-arrested-for-first-degree-rape/?platform=hootsuite

Former Perry Police Officer Arrested For Lewd Acts With Child

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PONCA CITY, Oklahoma – A former Perry police officer was arrested for lewd acts with a child.

According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI,) 45-year-old Matthew Lance Vassar was arrested Thursday night at a relative’s house in Ponca City.

The Ponca City Police Department requested OSBI investigate an allegation of the crime on Tuesday. Other law enforcement agencies assisting OSBI with the arrest were the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Ponca Tribal Police, and the Kay County Sheriff’s Office.

Vassar was a police officer at the time of the allegations. His bond has been set at $750,000.

http://www.news9.com/story/33392755/former-perry-police-officer-arrested-for-lewd-acts-with-child?platform=hootsuite

This is why it will be very hard to prosecute the cop who shot Terence Crutcher

A fraught 1989 Supreme Court decision makes it very tough

Tulsa police footage of Terence Crutcher moments before he was shot by officer Betty Shelby.

At the end of last week, 40-year-old Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby. Video released by the department shows Crutcher walking away from police officers with his hands up while moving toward his vehicle, which had apparently broken down on the road. As he approached the door of his car, one officer deployed a taser on Crutcher and officer Shelby fired her weapon.

Despite repeated public outcry in highly publicized cases like this one, data shows that police officers are in fact very rarely charged or successfully prosecuted for on-duty shootings or other uses of force. According to a Washington Post investigation, between 2005 and 2015, just 54 officers were prosecuted for shootings. Assuming that the almost 1,000 police shooting deaths recorded in 2015 wasn’t a statistical outlier, that’s 54 cases out of nearly 10,000 fatal shootings.

Tulsa PD officer Shelby may or may not face prosecution for the killing.

The reasons for so few prosecutions are many, of course. And it’s often the case that shootings are both justified and arguably necessary.

But there is one protection that shields officers from prosecution and civil liability for killing even unarmed people: the case of Graham v. Connor.

A landmark Supreme Court ruling that still features prominently today in determining the propriety of officer use of force, Graham was decided in 1989. This case involved Dethorne Graham, who had been seen running out of a convenience store in Charlotte, North Carolina. A police officer who thought Graham was a fleeing thief detained Graham, roughed him up, and injured him in the process.

In actuality, Graham was diabetic and trying to get sugar to counter an insulin reaction, and the line at the store was too long, so he abruptly left. He sued under federal civil rights law, accusing the officer of using excessive force.

The court ruled that to be held liable under federal civil rights law, a police officer must have acted in a way that was “objectively unreasonable” to other officers in similar situations. In other words, because the officer believed that a crime may have occurred and that his actions were generally in line with encountering criminal suspects, the officer was not held liable.

In use of force cases, this evolved into what has been colloquially dubbed the “reasonably scared cop rule.” That is, if the officer can reasonably articulate that he was in fear of his life, the use of force will likely pass muster with prosecutors and investigators. The upshot of the rule is alarming, as Scott Greenfield explained on his blog Simple Justice:

As long as the question is whether the cops can piece together vague excuses to justify their fear as being objectively reasonable, particularly in light of the great deference paid the police by the courts and public, there will be no incentive to not kill when the opportunity presents itself.

The background notion is that if the law places a heavier burden on police before pulling the trigger, they will hesitate when faced with a true threat and, in at least some instances, lose the race to survival. The flip side, of course, is that they will shoot first, shoot prematurely. They will shoot not because of an actual threat, but because of the fear of a potential threat, a huge step removed. Yet, the ability to craft a viable excuse for fear is all that’s required as a matter of law to protect the cop from culpability for his kill.

Put simply, a fearful police officer is a very dangerous one. If he can articulate a plausible narrative that he believed he or his life was in danger — often involving the suspect making a “sudden” or “furtive movement,” or “reaching for his waistband” as if for a gun — any lack of actual danger or dangerous weapon is not relevant to the officer’s legal culpability. Absolved of criminal or civil responsibility by investigators, the officer may keep his job and go back on the streets.

“Reasonably scared” undercover cops pointed their guns at a crowd of protestors in Oakland in 2015. (Michael Short/SF Chronicle)

The real problem with the “objectively reasonable” standard of accountability is that it’s actually much closer to “subjectively reasonable.” The perspective of sympathetic officers who can imagine themselves shooting someone in a potentially life-or-death scenario given a set of stipulated facts effectively trumps the individual rights of an unarmed person shot to death.

In practice, such a standard can provide an abundance of caution in favor of the officer’s safety at the cost of the lives of people they are sworn to serve. In some circumstances, officer caution can save a suspect’s life in critical situations. But Graham protects officers who may overreact to a perceived threat so that they shoot first and look for a weapon later. Putting officer safety first and foremost subverts the protections that the government is supposed to provide to its citizens. While officer safety is undoubtedly important, it is also important to remember that there is no officer safety exception to the Constitution.

Almost 30 years since Graham, it remains the crucial ruling that governs the actions in so many police shooting cases. Given the actions of Terence Crutcher in the critical moments before his death, it will likely be invoked again.

Jonathan Blanks, , Cato Institute, “This is why it will be very hard to prosecute the cop who shot Terence Crutcher”, https://timeline.com/charges-terence-crutcher-shooting-50ead2e3ce33

Grand Jury Indicts Wagoner County Sheriff; Seeks Removal From Office

Posted: Mar 31, 2016 3:53 PM EST Updated: Mar 31, 2016 6:04 PM EST

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WAGONER COUNTY, Oklahoma – A grand jury is seeking the removal of the Wagoner County sheriff and a deputy on bribery and extortion charges.

According to Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the Fifteenth Multicounty Grand Jury issued the accusation of removal based on counts of extortion, willful neglect of duty and failure to produce and account for all public funds.

The accusation also requests the District Court to order the immediate suspension of Sheriff Bob Colbert from his duties as sheriff, pending trial.

Colbert and Deputy Jeffrey Gragg are alleged to have conspired together to bribe two individuals, taking $10,000 in exchange for not pursuing drug charges.

According to a news release, Gragg performed a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Torrell Wallace and a 17-year-old passenger. During the stop, the release says Gragg searched the vehicle and found $10,000.

Wallace and the passenger said the cash belonged to them. The release says they were arrested for possession of drug proceeds. They were taken to the jail where, according to the release, Colbert and Gragg accepted a bribe and released Wallace and the 17-year-old and their records were deleted.

The release says the cash was placed in the Sheriff’s Drug Forfeiture account.

Colbert and Gragg face three charges – conspiracy to receive a bribe, receiving a bribe and extortion induced by threats.

In a statement, Colbert’s attorney said:

“The underlying accusation involves a routine drug interdiction (lawful cash seizure of drug funds) by the sheriff’s department. The funds are not missing and are accounted for. The Sheriff’s Office timely deposited every cent of this money in the county’s treasurer account as required by state law. This money was earmarked for fighting drug trafficking to help protect the citizens.

“The basis for this interdiction as reported includes the accusation of deleted records. That accusation cannot be supported at trial. We are looking forward to being released from the gag order such that we can release the counter-evidence exonerating Sheriff Colbert.

“We note that there is pending legislation in the Senate hoping to drastically change drug interdiction laws. Their accusations remain politically motivated.

“We are so sad for the Sheriff, Gary James, my husband Clint Hastings and I will all continue to fight to clear his name.” 

 

Mar 31, 2016, NewsOn6.com, “Grand Jury Indicts Wagoner County Sheriff; Seeks Removal From Office”, http://www.newson6.com/story/31613114/grand-jury-indicts-wagoner-county-sheriff-seeks-removal-from-office?platform=hootsuite

Tulsa County deputy arrested, accused of using stolen credit card

Updated: Mar 24, 2016 – 10:39 PM

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  • A Tulsa County Sheriff’s Deputy was arrested Thursday.
  • Officials said Deputy Toni Ivano was in his uniform and allegedly used a stolen credit card.
  • This is his second arrest in two years.

Tulsa County Deputy Toni Ivano was arrested and charged with unlawful use of a credit card. He is now on unpaid administrative leave.

Ivano is accused of using a woman’s credit card without her consent at a Tulsa vape shop.

The incident allegedly happened in February and Ivano turned himself in Thursday.

Mar 24, 2016, fox23.com, “Tulsa County deputy arrested, accused of using stolen credit card”, http://www.fox23.com/news/tulsa-county-deputy-arrested-accused-of-using-stolen-credit-card/178638261?platform=hootsuite