By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.–Abandon assumptions that healing can easily begin for Black women who were raped by a recently convicted former White cop.
Testifying during his trial to keep Daniel Holtzclaw from harming another person forced them to relive his terrifying acts.
His victims, 13 poor, Black women, say they are a long way from healing, but the worst part is over, and they survived.
They’re preparing to endure his Jan. 21 sentencing. He faces a possible 263 years in prison. He could be out in seven years if the sentences run together.
Seven of the women are suing Mr. Holtzclaw and Oklahoma City in federal court, alleging failures allowing him to remain an officer without supervision and monitoring.
“I don’t feel like it’s been settled properly. I don’t think he got what he deserved,” said Jannie Ligons. The 59-year-old grandmother helped to expose his attacks against the others. She reported to police that he forced her to perform oral sex during a June 18, 2014 traffic stop.
That was the serial rapist’s modes operandi. He’d target women while on patrol, run their background records, and force those with pasts checkered by drug use or outstanding warrants to have sex or face arrest.
Ms. Ligons said she begged him not to do it. She thought he was going to kill her. He picked the wrong lady to stop that night, because she’d done nothing he could use against her, and God willed she’d survive to tell her story, she said during a December press conference in front of the courthouse where he was convicted.
Ms. Ligons hurried to report his crime to the police. She stood strong and dignified with several other Holtzclaw survivors and their lawyer Benjamin Crump, who also represents Michael Brown, Sr. in Ferguson and Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
“He should’ve got more time, should’ve not have gotten no years, should’ve been a life sentence. That is how I feel about it,” Ms. Ligons told The Final Call during a roundtable interview at the Riggs Abney law firm.
“Today was not about celebrating the victory in the court yesterday. It was about celebrating the courage of these heroes and these survivors of rape as an example now for other victims of rape, domestic violence and abuse,” Atty. Crump told The Final Call.
“These 13 sisters are heroes, and I know people are going to try to continue to talk about them, victimize them and you know, say all kinds of nasty things about them, but we, in our community, they are heroes, and we are going to call them that every time we get a chance to lift them up,” Atty. Crump continued.
Terri Morris testified that Mr. Holtzclaw forced her to perform oral sex and display her breasts and genitals, but those were among the counts that fell through the cracks of the jury’s decision.
Some feel the jury ignored her claims because she struggles with drug dependency.
“I felt hurt, but all I know is I was going to tell the truth, and that’s all I know,” Ms. Morris said referring to the way defense counsel Scott Adams treated her on the stand. “His lawyer dragged me through the mud,” but prosecutors stuck with her when she wanted to give up, she said.
“The emotional abuse lasted. It’s still going. The physical abuse only lasted that night, but the emotional abuse I don’t think I’ll ever get completely past it,” Ms. Morris said.
Others should be prosecuted, because she wasn’t protected, Ms. Morris said tearfully. “If I was, I don’t feel he would have been able to do what he was able to do. Why are you riding around without a partner? How was this able to happen? How were so many able to get raped before it came to the light? I’m still somewhat speechless. I have a lot of things in me. I’m just looking forward to putting this thing in the past.”
She thanked Tyral and LaTonya Muhammad for taking time to help her and see that she gets justice. They all grew up together, but she didn’t find out until she went to court that their daughter, Shardayreon Hill, was among the 13.
According to Ms. Hill, Mr. Holtzclaw arrested her, then took her to a hospital on the other side of town, which didn’t make any sense. She was undressed then handcuffed to a hospital bed. He raped her then coerced her to perform sex acts. And no one went back to check on her, she said.
“He wasn’t charged, and he actually did everything that I said,” she told The Final Call. He faced three counts of sexual battery, one count of forcible oral sodomy, second degree rape, and indecent exposure against her. She feels she was denied justice because he arrested her on drug charges.
“I don’t care who he is, what his position was, and because of our backgrounds and who we are, our history does not mean that it’s ok for us to get raped, violated and manipulated or none of that. We didn’t deserve that, so he deserves every bit of life,” Ms. Hill said.
They didn’t deserve to be mistreated the way they were during the trial, said Ms. Muhammad, who attends the Nation of Islam’s Oklahoma City Study Group.
Survivors told The Final Call, Mr. Holtclaw’s mother in particular, but also his family tried to intimidate them with stare downs. His attorneys badgered them, and police harassed them in the courthouse, they said.
“That was very disturbing for me because … I felt like, the DA’s were saying they wanted him to get life. But as far as the judge, how he was acting and being in court, I don’t believe he was for us. I believe he was for him,” Ms. Hill said.
“He made a statement about the Black community as far as us being on the east side and Black women smoking crack pipes at two in the morning like its normal. I feel like he really disrespected us as Black people and what we stand for. I felt like when he had me on the stand questioning me, he tried to make me feel like I did something wrong,” Ms. Hill said.
Similar attempts failed with her mother. “When I got up there and had to testify, they tried to ask me about my criminal history, and I sat up, and I just said I’m not on trial. He is for rape,” she said, pointing to the disgraced former college athlete.
“I did not understand that. This whole case has been not about 13 Black women being raped. It’s been about 13 Black women’s criminal history and drug use,” Ms. Muhammad said.
Mr. Holtzclaw’s armor of arrogance, brazenness, self-entitlement and access to Black women’s bodies was stripped away, as an all-White jury vindicated his survivors’ charges. Well some of them. He was found guilty of 18 of 36 counts of sexual assaults against only eight of them.
He sobbed uncontrollably during the verdict read Dec. 10, also his birth date. His victims’ supporters cheered and sang happy birthday outside.
“I thought he was going to run out the courtroom, how I saw him being able to be un-handcuffed, standing up, and just moving the way he was,” Ms. Muhammad observed. “He might have wanted to run from them … make a dash out that courtroom, and I feel like, how they’ve been treating us in the courtroom, they were going to let him get out that building,” she stated.
Now the serial rapist is on suicide watch, protected from himself in a county jail cell, but who protected these poor, Black women from him?
The problem isn’t just that Mr. Holtzclaw denied he raped the mostly middle-age in their 40’s and 50’s women, but he was so assured he would not be brought to justice, he didn’t even bother to craft a defense, and that’s frightening, activists said.
He also raped a 17-year-old on the front porch of her mother’s house.
Making matters worse, the victim, who just turned 18, had been sex trafficked and raped twice before Holtzclaw, according to Atty. Melvin Hall, senior partner at Riggs Abney.
“She was one of the three women he’d raped in five hours … This was about power. This should have been covered like the O.J. case, but because the victims are Black, nobody cared,” Atty. Hall told The Final Call.
Who knows how many Daniel Holtzclaw rape victims are out there? The roundtable participants wondered aloud.
Atty. Hall said he’s never seen such a case, though it’s very common.
“Over my years, I’ve had more than one Black female to come to me with a case like this, but I’ve turned them down,” he said.
“Now, what makes these cases so different is because it’s so cumulative. I think if this had just been one case, the DA would have never even prosecuted,” Atty. Hall explained.
Another lawsuit has been filed against Mr. Holtzclaw by another woman who’s come forward in addition to the 13, which the women are monitoring. In addition, three other lawsuits have been filed since they came forward, and one filed before, where an individual was allegedly hog-tied by Mr. Holtzclaw and passed away, Atty. Hall said.
Allegedly, he’s molesting Black men also, Ms. Muhammad said after hearing the above. According to supporters who attended the trial every day, she recounted their report, Mr. Holtzclaw left his jurisdiction way on the Northeast side of the city to respond to a call at an address he’s familiar with on the Northwest side.
There were already three officers on the scene with a man who had mental issues. They wanted to transport him to the hospital, but he wanted to go into his mother’s car, Ms. Muhammad said.
“I was told, and I don’t know if this is true, but those two women said when Holtzclaw came into this house, the three officers were in there and asked him what was he doing there, and the man on the floor said, ‘Is you ready for me to suck your private,’ just like he knew him,” she said.
“They did not prosecute him for that, but there’s a civil lawsuit in place now. Same guy,” Atty. Hall said.
Now, he will pay on some level. He was convicted of first degree rape, second degree rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery, and procuring lewd exhibition, counts which carry punishments from five to 30 years.
“When the verdict came down it was surreal,” said Grace Franklin of Oklahoma Artists for Justice. “When they said all of a sudden the verdict is coming, it was like having your body tied up in a knot with so much stress and anticipation, and you realize, oh my God. Here we go. If they let this dude off, if they let this criminal off the consequence of that or if they don’t give him enough,” Ms. Franklin flashed back.
She and other female activists monitored the case from the start. They supported the survivors, and worked to raise awareness through social media and other activities.
She said shared many of the survivors’ supporters began crying as they watched outside on live screen even before the verdict was announced. “On that first guilty count, when he started crying, we were so relieved, we were so excited,” she told The Final Call. That is until they realized some counts were ignored, indicating some women didn’t receive justice, she added.
During the press conference, Tyral Muhammad thanked Atty. Crump for helping to garner attention on the case, and the women for standing up. “There’s no telling how long this was going on and how many others are out there that have not come forward yet,” he said.
“But, we are not totally satisfied. I don’t understand how this officer could operate for months or maybe even years with it going unnoticed for so many years. How was he able to turn his GPS system off so many times and it not come across somebody’s desk that’s over him?”
“How was he able to run people’s names for warrants, finding out they had warrants, but never show up at the police station with them? Someone else needs to be held accountable as well as him. We are not being rocked to sleep because of this verdict,” Mr. Muhammad warned.
He demanded more Black officers to patrol their neighborhood and feels if they were already in place, the rapes could have been prevented.
National media white-washed coverage of the case, said activists and advocates. There were also blatant attempts to hide the Nation of Islam’s role in bringing the national attention the case deserved.
While several people appealed to him out of fear Mr. Holtzclaw would go free, Atty. Crump said, himself a father, said he always assured them justice would prevail. But he understood the severity of things during a painful call from Tyral Muhammad. When he tapped into that pain, it became personal, the attorney said.
“What is it about them that there was no national outcry, as if this would have been another group of women who would have been violated by a serial rapist with a badge? Where is the disdain? Where’s the contempt? Where’s the national outcry for their equal justice?” Atty. Crump asked.
“We were at the trial every day, but there’s no mention of the Nation of Islam’s presence at the trial, and whenever we were in a picture, whether it be in the newspaper here locally or a television shot, we were cropped out,” said student Minister Robert Muhammad, Minister Farrakhan’s Southwest Region representative.
“And this is because the presence of strong, disciplined, Black men have a tendency to attract and inspire other strong, disciplined, fearless, Black men,” he said. It’s not about a photo op, the student minister added.
“Had that jury not come back with a guilty verdict, it would have been explosive. An all-White jury, a White police officer, 13 poor Black women? It would have been explosive,” he said.
“There still isn’t justice for those sisters, who have been destroyed … What happened to those women, what was stolen from them, can’t be restored with millions of dollars, can’t be restored with him spending his time in jail. It helps, but it’s not the solution,” stated Min. Muhammad.
Police Chief Bill Citty said there were more crimes the department felt Mr. Holtzclaw was responsible for. He feels justice was served based on the number of counts and number of potential years for the convicted former officer.
When asked if he or the police department had apologized to the survivors, he issued one through The Final Call, but said he wouldn’t take responsibility for what Mr. Holtzclaw did.
“He was working outside the policies and procedures, and way outside any type of ethical code that law enforcement has, and so, I’m not going to take responsibility for that, because we work very hard, at hiring people, doing background checks to make sure that they are honest, people with good virtue, and ethical,” Chief Citty told The Final Call.