The former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of raping more than a dozen Black women is sentenced to 263 years in prison.
Last month, Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted on 18 of 36 counts, including first-degree rape. His victims were mostly Black women living in poor neighborhoods, who had criminal records.
Over a six-month period, between Jan. and June 2014, more than 12 incidents occurred in which Holtzclaw sexually assaulted the women.
In once instance, Holtzclaw pulled up to a woman who was sitting in a parked car outside her house and fondled the woman’s breasts, telling her, “I’m not going to take you to jail. Just play by my rules.” He went back to her home, breaking in once.
The woman said during the trial the reason she did not go to police was because she was a Black woman and thought no one would believe her.
“I thought he was going to kill me because I had seen his face and could tell on him, and he was an officer and had to know he wasn’t supposed to do this,” the victim said in an interview with CNN.
Holtzclaw also sexually assaulted a 17-year-old female he stopped. He threatened to arrest the girl on an outstanding warrant before taking her to her mother’s house, where he forced her to perform oral sex and have intercourse with him on the enclosed porch.
An all-white jury found Holtzclaw guilty of first-degree rape, sexual battery, indecent exposure, stalking, forcible oral sodomy and burglary. He was sentenced to serve 263 years in prison consecutively.
“We are satisfied with the jury’s decision and firmly believe justice was served,” Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said in a statement. “It was a long and difficult trial and deliberation process for all involved. It is obvious the jury took their responsibilities very seriously and considered every piece of evidence presented to them.”
Last week, Holtzclaw’s attorney requested a new trial, citing evidence withheld from the defense. The request was denied by the judge.
Little attention was given to the trial by mainstream media. Critics said the fact that the victims were Black probably played a role. Most attention to the case was on social media. Women’s groups were also criticized for not having a presence in the courtroom during the trial.
Many say that the case is a turning point for the justice system, because the victims were Black women and the officer’s fate was in the hands of an all-white jury in the Midwest that found him guilty.
President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women Teresa C. Younger said the verdict and sentencing of the officer sends a message that law enforcement officers are not above the law.
“This verdict reminds us of the work we must do as a society to dismantle stereotypes that promote victim blaming and discredit the experiences and needs of entire communities of women,” said Younger. “We hope that the verdict in this case encourages other courts to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions and listen when women report violent crimes, regardless of their history or the position of their attacker.”
The African American Public Policy Forum said in statement, with several other organizations, that the sentencing will make officers in power more hesitant to abuse the authority entrusted to them by citizens.
“Those survivors who tell this story will reclaim some of their own power,” the group said. “They can understand the bravery and courage it takes to stand up for their own bodies. The world can value a Black woman, regardless of socioeconomic status or background, as a human being that is afforded the same civil rights as every other member of society.”