Reaction: Hunting Holtzclaw series by The Oklahoman - Chapter One

©Oklahoman - Art by Todd Pendleton. Design by Richard Hall & Tim Watson. (Fair Use claim)

6/3/2016 - Recently Oklahoma's largest daily newspaper, The Oklahoman, released a four-part longform series on the Daniel Holtzclaw allegations, investigation and conviction. The series specifically focused on the two sex crimes detectives who "helped bring [Daniel Holtzclaw] to justice."

This is my reaction to that series.

First, in the interest of transparency, I [Brian Bates, former private investigator for the Holtzclaw defense team] participated indirectly in this series, written by The Oklahoman reporter Adam Kemp.

Kemp spoke about my involvement in this series in a podcast entitled, "Writer's Room - The Reporting Process for 'Hunting Holtzclaw' Series." Below is an excerpt of the relevant audio...

I was approached by Kemp in an email dated April 6, 2016. 

In that email, Kemp explained that they had already pretty much finished up a long-form series on the Holtzclaw case, was focusing on sex crimes Detectives Kim Davis and Rocky Gregory and that he was hoping I could allow him to review court documents that he had been unable to get from the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office.

Because I believe in Holtzclaw's innocence, have nothing to hide regarding this case and hoped my participation would ensure a fair and balanced article, I agreed to allow Kemp access to my court records. That access came with the condition that he review any records in my presence and at my home office.

Kemp was at my home for almost four hours reviewing any record he requested. Kemp also followed up with email and phone requests for additional information.

REACTION: Chapter One | Two Clues

First, as a reader, you have to understand this series is written in what is referred to as 'longform.' Simply put, longform is more narrative in nature and, as the name suggests, often results in an article that has a much larger word count than more traditional news articles or even features.

The Oklahoman's series is long enough as it is. To avoid reposting it in its entirety, along with my thoughts, I'd invite you to go to newsok.com, read chapter one and then return back to this page. You can find The Oklahoman's series at this link.

Chapter One basically lays the foundation to what started the investigation into Daniel Holtzclaw. It's an intentionally emotional retelling of Det. Davis' recollection of the events that occurred in the early morning hours of June 18, 2014.

While it makes for a great opening to some (probably soon to be found on a television near you) Lifetime movie, like virtually every other retelling of these events, it doesn't even come close to proving that a single criminal act was perpetrated by then Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw.

So, what struck me as odd in this chapter?

From the very beginning, this series supports two things I have said all along - One, Detectives Davis and Gregory are (as stated by Holtzclaw's defense lawyer at trial) "incompetent or operating under an agenda", and, Two, not only is there no direct evidence proving Holtzclaw committed any of the alleged crimes, but what direct and circumstantial evidence exists points to Holtzclaw's likely innocence.

When you remove all the flowery language and reporter Kemp's absolute refusal to question anything Det. Davis says, this is what we learned in 'Chapter One | Two Clues.'

Det. Davis is the on-call sex crimes detective when Ligons is stopped and later makes her allegations against Holtzclaw.

Det. Davis immediately admits that sexual assault allegations against Oklahoma City Police officers are so common that she estimates at least one is made most every month. Det. Davis also admits that overwhelmingly those allegations are false, made at the hands of degenerates (specifically, drug users and prostitutes) and most often are a ploy to "get out of jail or get back at what they perceive as an overly aggressive cop."

That statement alone is the foundation to what I have always claimed is the truth behind the Daniel Holtzclaw allegations - Holtzclaw had a reputation as being an overly aggressive (but within the law) police officer and it was only a matter of time before some local scumbag took a very real situation and inserted a sexual assault claim - which is exactly what Det. Davis herself admits is an extremely common occurrence.

Det. Davis' incompetence reveals itself from the moment she is assigned to this case. 

Det. Davis claims that immediately upon meeting Ligons, "she senses this incident is different from her previous cases involving officers accused of sexual misconduct." Yet, she never once feels the need to pull out her audio recorder, press 'record' on her smart phone or conduct an interview with Ligons on video. This is important because; One, Det. Davis routinely uses recording equipment when interviewing individuals either in the field or at police headquarters - so she had to intentionally have chosen not to record Ligons' statements. Two, Det. Davis conveniently and repeatedly refers to Ligons' demeanor, trembling voice, crying, look of fear and other physical and audio cues she claims to have witnessed as her justification to believe Ligons is telling the truth. Yet, not once in her official investigative report does Det. Davis make a single reference to any of those things she now claims were so relevant then.

Det. Davis says in her interview with The Oklahoman that Ligons discloses to her that "she'd smoked a little marijuana" before encountering Holtzclaw. In reality, Det. Davis clearly notes in her report that Ligons says she smoked two joints and took over-the-counter pain medication before getting in her car. I'd argue Det. Davis' choice of words to The Oklahoman again shows her bias and unwillingness to be truthful and transparent. 

Det Davis also described Ligons as looking "like somebody's grandmother." 

Jannie Ligons as photographed by investigators the morning of her allegations.

I can't speak for Det. Davis' experience with what she considers to be the 'look' of a typical grandmother.... but I can tell you Ligons' appearance that night at 2 a.m. - with the large gold hoop earrings, purple striped hair, mumbling voice and eyes she can barely hold open - would not match the mental image most people conjured up as 'somebody's grandmother.' I don't bring this up to disparage Ligons, I personally don't have a problem with her 'look.' I only mention it to show Det. Davis' bias and how it was present from the start of this case.

In addition to not 'looking' like your typical grandmother, you also need to keep in mind that (even though it wasn't mentioned in the article) Ligons doesn't live like your typical grandmother and Det. Davis and The Oklahoman reporter Kemp were well aware of that fact.

Ligons spent that evening at a man's house smoking pot and doing over the counter pain medication. Ligons' own live-in boyfriend of many years had never even actually met the man Ligons' was spending the evening with. Ligons, who has been evicted from previous residences, was living with her boyfriend in her adult daughter's home with her adult daughter's unemployed violent felon boyfriend and the daughter's two children. Ligons, who works part-time at a local daycare, was out driving, under the influence, without a license or insurance and had not had a valid driver's license in 30-years. But, she's just your typical grandmother according to seasoned Detective Kim Davis.

Regardless of the fact that Det. Davis is biased in favor of Jannie Ligons, she chooses not to record Ligons' allegations in any way and knows from experience these types of allegations are almost always false - The citizens of Oklahoma County should at least be able to cling to the hope that Det. Davis won't be blind to her very next assertion... "Typically, liars can't keep their story straight."

The lies, inconsistencies,  inaccuracies and changing story from Jannie Ligons and her family are in no short supply. To begin with, Ligons allegedly told Det. Davis that Holtzclaw pulled up next to her car before falling back and then pulling her over. At trial, Ligons and Det. Davis claimed that Holtzclaw was profiling Ligons as a black female driving all alone and that's why he pulled her over and it was to sexually assault her.

It is possible Holtzclaw pulled up next to or near Ligons' vehicle just prior to pulling it over - police officers do this all the time. What's not possible is the claim that Holtzclaw saw that the car was being driven by a black female who was all alone. 

Photo of Jannie Ligons' 2004 red Pontiac Grand Am.

Photo of Jannie Ligons' 2004 red Pontiac Grand Am.

Ligons' vehicle that night was a red 2004 Pontiac Grand Am with very dark tinted windows. Even in daylight it is almost impossible to see inside the car. Northeast 50th is an unlit, pitch black, section of roadway where Holtzclaw encountered Ligons.

All of this seems to be Det. Davis and Ligons' attempt to distract the public from the fact that Holtzclaw most likely had a very good reason to pull Ligons over - she was driving at 2 a.m. in a crime ridden area of the city and swerving because she admittedly had smoked two joints and took pain medicine.

Daniel Holtzclaw's patrol car.

The next lies by Ligons came upon her retelling of how she was pat searched by Holtzclaw. The details of which were known to reporter Kemp, but he apparently chose to ignore them and simply described the process as, "[Holtzclaw] patted [Ligons] down, ordered her to sit in his backseat and searched her car." 

In the official investigative report (read and photographed by reporter Kemp), Det. Davis notes that Ligons claims that she was made to place her hands on Holtzclaw's vehicle so he could search her - think the TV show COPS and felony stop procedures. Holtzclaw was asked about that during his lengthy and RECORDED interrogation. Holtzclaw claimed that never happened. When crime scene investigators examined Holtzclaw's patrol car (only hours after the alleged assault), they could find no evidence Ligons ever placed her hands on Holtzclaw's car.

Det. Davis further notes in the investigation report that Ligons claims that Holtzclaw placed his hands on top of his patrol car to block any passing motorist's view of him forcing Ligons to perform oral sex on him. Holtzclaw is asked about this claim as well and he says it never happened. Once again, an examination of Holtzclaw's patrol car shows no evidence he ever placed his hands on the top of his car.

Unmentioned in Chapter One, but appearing in the investigative report, is the fact that Ligons also claimed that Holtzclaw picked up and went through her cell phone. As with the previous two claims of contact, a forensics examination of Ligons' cell phone revealed no fingerprints or DNA belonging to Holtzclaw.

Red: Ligons' car. Blue: Holtzclaw's car. Highlighted Area: Surveillance video coverage.

Ligons claims that she was driving home when Holtzclaw stopped her. However, both Ligons and Holtzclaw agree that the traffic stop was not initiated until they were driving through the intersection of NE 50th and Lincoln Blvd - heading west on 50th. If Ligons was truly heading home, her route would have been to have turned at Lincoln Blvd. and headed north, not through the intersection headed west. In fact, at the end of the surveillance video, you see Ligons double-back to head north on Lincoln Blvd. to I-44. This appears to indicate that Ligons was not actually headed home when Holtzclaw stopped her. But, since she told Holtzclaw that was where she was headed, she changed course and went home after the stop.

In Chapter One, reporter Kemp also makes mention of Holtzclaw allegedly ordering Ligons to lift her shirt and bra - exposing her breasts. Most likely this is Ligons' exaggeration of a well-known and legal practice of police officers having female suspects perform what is called the "Clasp and Shake." Where a female is asked to clasp her bra (from the outside of her shirt), lift the bra away from her breasts and shake. The idea being to reveal any hidden drugs, contraband, paraphernalia or weapons that may be hidden.

Reporter Kemp also repeats Ligons' claim that Holtzclaw "ordered her to lower her jeans." This too is most likely Ligons' exaggeration of another perfectly legal and accepted police practice wherein a suspect is asked to roll down the waistband of their pants to once again reveal any drugs, paraphernalia or weapons.

Ligons claims that it's at this point that Holtzclaw forces her to perform oral sex on him. 

A medical examination of Ligons (including swabbing the inside of her mouth) and a forensic examination of Holtzclaw's patrol car and the pants he was wearing during the traffic stop revealed no evidence of a sexual assault or sexual contact.

Back to the surveillance video (which apparently is clue number one in the 'Two Clues' chapter title)... Despite The Oklahoman's claim that the "video quality is too poor to detect movement" you can in fact see individuals moving from location to location and therefore create a timeline of how long Holtzclaw spent at Ligons' vehicle as opposed to his own. That movement, which I have analyzed, matches with Holtzclaw's version of events perfectly.

The surveillance video also shows a discrepancy in Ligons' version of events. 

Ligons claims in Det. Davis' police report that after the traffic stop she, "pulled into a parking space and turned around." As the surveillance video clearly shows, that never happened - Ligons simply pulls forward and makes a u-turn.

While Ligons' version of events is full of assertions that should be able to be supported by direct evidence, not a single one, beyond simply being pulled over, can be substantiated; You can't see in her car at night, she apparently wasn't actually headed home, she never touched Holtzclaw's patrol car, Holtzclaw never touched the top of his patrol car, Ligons didn't leave the area the way she stated and Ligons' rape exam and the exam of Holtzclaw's patrol car and uniform pants revealed no evidence of sexual contact.

Det. Davis says her next course of action was to determine if any of the Oklahoma City Police Patrol officer's GPS indicated a particular unit was in the area of the Ligons stop around 2 a.m.

The vehicle GPS logs revealed that no officers were in the area, and that one officer, Holtzclaw, had turned his patrol car's GPS off at 2 a.m. as his shift ended - at the Springlake Division police department - only a mile away from the Ligons stop. This revelation is clue number two in this chapter's 'Two Clues' title.

As pointed out, turning off your patrol car GPS is a violation of OCPD policy. 

What reporter Kemp failed to clarify was that Holtzclaw's GPS records - which were revealed at trial - clearly showed Holtzclaw literally never obeyed this policy and always turned his GPS off after his shift. So, despite The Oklahoman's attempt to make this revelation seem nefarious and sinister, it was simply lax policing on Holtzclaw's part.

Also not covered in this series is the fact that every one of Ligons' relatives gave a different and often contradictory version of events for how the alleged assault was reported.

During this chapter we are indirectly introduced to Det. Rocky Gregory when it is mentioned that "Davis remembers a similar case from a few weeks before where a woman claimed she’d been assaulted by a muscular officer. Another detective in the sex crimes unit, Rocky Gregory, had investigated the allegation, but Davis wasn’t sure what had come of it." But, we do know what came of those allegations by accuser Terri Morris. Morris admitted she had lied to police and, at trial, Holtzclaw was acquitted of all of Morris' accusations.

A closer look at the 'Two Clues' in this chapter title.

Clue Number One: The surveillance video

  • Shows the stop did happened.
    • Holtzclaw never denied stopping Ligons and actually came forward when asked.
    • Det. Davis admitted that false sexual assault allegations usually have a foundation built upon actual  interactions between the accuser and the accused.
  • The video backs-up every aspect of Holtzclaw's version of events.
    • Where the stop happened, what time the stop happened, how long the stop lasted, how long he spent at Ligons' car vs. his patrol car, etc.
  • Location of the stop verifies Ligons most likely lied when she said she was headed home when stopped by Holtzclaw.
  • Shows Ligons lied about how she left the area after the stop.
  • Does not show any evidence that any crime whatsoever was committed by Holtzclaw.

Clue Number Two: Holtzclaw turning off his patrol cars GPS

  • Simply backs-up Holtzclaw's own admission he pulled Ligons over.
  • Is a violation of OCPD policy.
    • Not a violation of any laws.
  • Holtzclaw's GPS history clearly shows he never followed this policy and always turned his GPS off at the end of his shift.

So, what is the takeaway from Chapter One of 'Hunting Holtzclaw'? 

  • Women routinely make sexual assault allegations against OKC police officers.
  • Those sexual assault allegations are overwhelming false.
  • The motive behind false sexual assault allegations is usually trying to get out of jail or getting even with an overly aggressive cop.
    • Holtzclaw was a well documented overly aggressive (within the law) police officer.
  • Det. Davis chooses not to audio or video record Ligons' statement - though Det. Davis is convinced from the onset that Ligons' allegations are unique and truthful.
  • None of Ligons' assertions can be substantiated by direct evidence.
  • Reporter Kemp conveniently left out critical facts.
    • Holtzclaw routinely turned off his patrol car's GPS.
    • Ligons smoked more than 'a little marijuana' AND took pain medication.
    • Holtzclaw most likely had a legitimate reason to pull Ligons over.
    • Holtzclaw could not have seen inside Ligons' car prior to stopping her.
    • Ligons' assertions about touching Holtzclaw's patrol car do not match the forensic evidence.
    • Ligons' assertions Holtzclaw placed his hands on top of his patrol car do not match the forensic evidence.
    • The surveillance video supports every detail of Holtzclaw's version of events.
    • There are serious discrepancies as to what happened regarding Ligons' family immediately following the traffic stop.
    • The Terri Morris accusations were admittedly lies and Holtzclaw was acquitted of her allegations.