Daniel Holtzclaw, the ex-Oklahoma City officer convicted last month on charges of rape and sexual battery, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.
He was found guilty last month on 18 of 36 charges, including rape and sexual battery. Most of his victims were poor Black women, who were familiar with the criminal justice system. Because of their criminal backgrounds, Holtzclaw thought the women lacked credibility and no one would believe their allegations.
He bet wrong. Although officers escorted the women into the courtroom in shackles, jumpsuits, and handcuffs, the jury recommended 263 years in prison for Holtzclaw.
In a last ditch effort to stall sentencing on Wednesday, Holtzclaw’s attorney Scott Adams requested a new trial, writing in court documents that a Facebook post after the verdict hinted that evidence was withheld in the case, according to KOCO TV.
As a result, Adams claims that Holtzclaw was denied a fair trial because “the government made deliberate discovery violations and misrepresentations, undermining confidence in the verdict,” writes the news outlet.
Civil rights lawyers Damario Solomon-Simmons, Ben Crump, and Melvin Hall are undeterred. They represent seven of the 13 victims in a civil suit against the city.
Solomon-Simmons and Crump took up the case last year after the two visited the courtroom while working on another case, he said.
“The victims and their families saw us in the courtroom and approached us about possible representation,” Solomon-Simmons told NewsOne in an email Q&A. He said that he fully expects Holtzclaw, 29, to spend the rest of his life in prison. They plan to hold a news conference after the sentencing.
NewsOne: What is next in this case and why is it important?
Damario Solomon-Simmons: After the sentencing, our legal team will be focused primarily on: 1. Ensuring that our clients who were victimized by Holtzclaw have access to the organizations we have assembled that work with woman who are victims of sexual abuse and the other issues that plague them. Specifically, we want to make certain that our clients receive the counseling, support, and assistance that they so desperately need to overcome this terrible tragedy; and 2. We will aggressively pursue federal Civil Rights lawsuits on behalf of our clients so our clients are justly compensated for the terror that Holtzclaw perpetrated on them.
NO: And do you expect him to receive the maximum sentence?
DS: Based upon my experience and multiple conversations with other attorneys, I believe that Holtzclaw will spend the rest of his life in prison. Holtzclaw’s reign of terror was one of the most heinous abuses of power in the history of this nation. Holtzclaw must receive the maximum sentence allowed by law to validate his victims’ suffering, and to show the world, including others in positions of power, that abusing said power will have major consequences.
NO: If he receives the minimum sentence, will it change the impact of the
verdict, which resonated across the nation?
DS: Recently, the Associated Press reported that sexual assaults by police officers occur at shocking rates, and the report suggests that most police departments do not have policies specifically prohibiting sexual harassment and assault of the public, do not address the issue in training, and do not have any effective prevention and oversight measures in place. Worse, these sexual predators in badges are rarely arrested and convictions are even more uncommon. So, while it is true that for the women victimized by Holtlzclaw to receive what my friend and co-counsel Ben Crump calls “full justice” – meaning the offending party is:
2. Aggressively Prosecuted
4. Justly Sentenced; and
5. Just Compensation Paid to the Victims.
Holtzclaw must receive the maximum sentence available for his crimes against his victims. However, we cannot downplay the historic significance of Holtzclaw’s conviction despite how he is sentenced. With that being said, again, I believe it is vitally important that Holtzclaw receive maximum sentencing to send a clear message that his deviant behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in our society!
NO: What kind of impact has the case had on the community?
DS: It has galvanized the community around these women and, in particular, the issues poor Black woman face every day. It has also unified the community to demand and work towards more equity in policing, media coverage, and resources for the mostly Black, oppressed and disregarded Northeast Oklahoma City.
NO: How has it impacted law enforcement?
DS: Frankly, it is not clear yet if and how this conviction has impacted law enforcement here in Oklahoma. However, the fact that an all-White jury convicted a White policeman for sexually assaulting poor Black women (women that many in society considered “un-rapeable” and expendable), I imagine that for some they will modify their normal racist and/or abusive activities that many, including myself, have experienced.
NO: Will the jury’s verdict change anything for women, especially women of
color in terms of getting justice in sexual assault cases?
DS: Again, only time will tell us the true impact of this historic conviction of Holtzclaw. However, best believe that police departments and police officers all over the nation have seen that picture of Holtzclaw shackled and sobbing uncontrollably in front of the whole world after being found guilty. So, I’m optimistic that before the next time an officer has an urge to abuse his power and sexually assault any women, even women from the other side of the tracks, he will think about that powerful image of Holtzclaw and refrain from such evil and illegal actions.