The Daniel Holtzclaw allegations, investigation and trial; A Closer Look
1/24/2016 (updated 4/30/2018) OKC, OK – by Brian Bates — On January 21, 2016, former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, was sentenced to 263 years in prison after an Oklahoma County jury found him guilty of 18 sexual assault related crimes against eight female accusers. Holtzclaw was acquitted of 18 other sexual assault related crimes against an additional five female accusers.
What comes next I’ve written and re-written dozens of times in an attempt to accurately, concisely and fairly portray what I personally witnessed in regards to this investigation, trial and aftermath.
I'm not simply going to give you my opinion of Daniel Holtzclaw's guilt or innocence. I want to qualify that opinion. But more than that, I want to provide insights to this case that were never reported and never considered by a public that has been all too eager to redefine Daniel Holtzclaw as the poster child for decades of abuse against minorities, by those with not only the ability to do so, but presumably an almost unquestionable authority to do so.
In this article, I intentionally stay away from theories, race, backgrounds, jury makeup/influences and the “why’s?” (except where evidentiary). I want to limit this article to just the facts as they appear in discovery documents, were presented in open court and have been revealed since the trial.
Not long after Daniel Holtzclaw was arrested and criminally charged, I was called and asked by his defense lawyer, Scott Adams, to take a look at this case and give my opinion. That conversation went something like this….
The Telephone Call:
Scott Adams: (paraphrasing) “So, how badly have you roasted my client on your website?”
Brian Bates: “Actually, I haven’t yet. I was waiting for some of the details. But, its coming.”
Scott Adams: “I’m sure it is. Before you do that, I’d like to ask you to look over some of this evidence and give me your gut reaction. My guy claims he’s completely innocent, but you know how that goes. You may know some of these women and you may be able to give us some insights as to why they’d make these accusations if they are not true. Or, maybe my guy’s guilty and you can convince me of that. In that case I may need to focus on a plea.”
I’ve known Mr. Adams both personally and professionally for several years. I’ve worked directly and indirectly on many of his cases. I first formally met Mr. Adams when I hired him in 2005 to successfully represent me when I too faced false accusations by multiple female accusers and the wrath of Oklahoma City Police Vice Lt. Doug Kimberlin and then Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane – both of whom care very little about truth nor justice. In the end, my female accusers were shown to be liars and the charges were all dismissed. That experience, and the work I did on my own case, convinced me to become a licensed, armed, private investigator - in hopes of helping others in similar situations.
After looking over the evidence available at that time, I told Mr. Adams that though I had no idea if Daniel was innocent or guilty, I did not believe there was anything at that point proving Daniel Holtzclaw had committed any crime. In fact, I agreed with Mr. Adams that much of the investigation seemed premature, bias and greatly flawed.
My next step was to meet with Daniel Holtzclaw in person.
Unlikeliest of Allies:
Upon meeting Daniel Holtzclaw for the very first time – in Mr. Adams' office, while Daniel was out of jail on bond – his first words to me were, “You know, they taught us about you in the Police Academy.”
An unflattering reference to my 20-plus years of high profile activism spotlighting street prostitution and human trafficking in Oklahoma City through my website, JohnTV.com and numerous local, national and international television appearances. Activism that often has me harshly criticizing police and the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office.
Daniel Holtzclaw is over six feet tall, 270 lbs. and has the air of self-confidence that often comes with such a massive physical frame, a badge, a gun and all the authority granted to law enforcement.
To be honest, upon first glance, Daniel Holtzclaw embodied just about every negative stereotype of a police officer that I held – He was white (though in reality he is half Japanese), he obviously spends a lot of time at the gym, is cocky, and in his mind the end justifies the means when you’re a police officer protecting the citizenry from the scum of the city.
But as I spent those first few hours going over the case with Daniel Holtzclaw, I realized something far more important. Daniel Holtzclaw truly believed in his innocence and in the judicial system he placed his life on the line every day to protect.
I’ve worked on many cases with truly guilty sexual assault predators. In all those cases there was this inexplicable sense of doubt upon hearing their version of events and the involuntary feeling of the hairs beginning to stand up on the back of one’s neck simply by being in the same room with them.
That never once happened in any of my interactions with Daniel Holtzclaw.
After meeting with Mr. Adams, then with Daniel and finally with Daniel’s father, Eric Holtzclaw – who is a Lieutenant with another police agency in another city in Oklahoma – I was asked to officially assist in Daniel’s defense.
Do I think Daniel Holtzclaw is Guilty or innocent?:
Since I was asked to be a part of Daniel Holtzclaw’s defense team, I have spent literally hundreds of hours with Daniel, his father, his mother, his sisters, his friends and his then girlfriend. More importantly, I’ve read, watched and listened to every piece of evidence and potential evidence in this case. I also visited each and every alleged crime scene on multiple occasions. And, I did so with the understanding that if at any time it became clear Daniel Holtzclaw was guilty, of even just a single crime, that I would bow out of the case altogether.
The fact that I assisted in this case through the entire trial and literally sat with Daniel Holtzclaw in his jail cell, until only an hour before his guilty verdict was announced, should make my opinion crystal clear.
“I do not believe Daniel Holtzclaw is guilty of the crimes he was charged with and later convicted of.” — Brian Bates
Do I know with 100% certainty that Daniel is innocent? No. The only people that know that are Daniel and his accusers.
What I do know is that the allegations against Daniel Holtzclaw are highly suspect and the investigation, prosecution and trial were far from what was depicted by the local, national and international media.
My critics will say that, “Why of course you think he’s innocent, you were hired to be a part of his defense team, you are bias!” I do not hold that opinion against my critics. I am most certainly bias. But that bias was not created as a result of blindly supporting Daniel Holtzclaw. My bias is a direct result of reviewing ever piece of evidence in this case. My bias is also formed by many aspects of this case that should trouble every citizen that could one day find themselves, or a loved one, in the cross hairs of a judicial system that is being pushed along by a public hell bent on convicting a man with such questionable evidence.
Regardless of bias – because we are all guilty of having one – that doesn’t change these concerning facts:
- No Prior History: Daniel has not a single moment in his past that supports the assertion he is racist or an abuser of women to any degree – sexual, physical, emotional or otherwise. Investigators interviewed people Daniel had contact with while living in Oklahoma City and working for the Oklahoma City police department. When those interviews failed to produce any negative sentiment towards Daniel they next went to his college town just outside of Detroit, and then to his high school home town of Enid. All with the singular purpose of finding someone, anyone, who would cast a shadow over Daniel’s character. Try as they might, they couldn’t. Not a single ex-girlfriend, classmate, teammate, one-night-stand, co-worker, not even an acquaintance. Nobody would say Daniel was anything but quiet, respectful, kind, and focused on his girlfriend, career and his physique. Prosecutors went so far as to send investigators to the gym where Daniel and his girlfriend worked out, specifically to try and prove he was cheating on her. A witch hunt that proved to be completely untrue, but is a common tactic of immoral prosecutors and investigators – you want to put pressure on a defendant? Cause turmoil on their support system. You see, Daniel’s girlfriend at the time wasn’t just any supporter of Daniel’s, she was also the sister of a prosecutor in the very office that was seeking to imprison Daniel for life. This reality enraged the prosecution. So much so, lead prosecutor Gayland Geiger could not contain his hatred during Daniel’s girlfriend’s cross examination. Going so far as to admit to the jury he was being unnecessarily crude with her.
- Victim Profile Created Out of Thin Air: Within 24-hours of Jannie Ligons' initial complaint, and without cause, investigators assumed there must be additional victims. To find those victims, Lt. Muzny, of the Oklahoma City police department, arbitrarily had detectives compile a list of all black females with a history of prostitution and drugs - even though Ligons herself had no criminal conviction for drugs or prostitution. Detectives Kim Davis and Rocky Gregory then began randomly contacting women on that list. The list soon took on a life of it's own and became known by prosecutors and the media as Daniel's 'perfect victims.'
- The Interrogation: When Daniel was confronted by investigators, within hours of Jannie Ligons’ allegations, he was completely open and cooperative. He never tried to lawyer-up, repeatedly expressed his desire to cooperate, offered to take a polygraph, signed waivers to allow investigators to take his DNA, his uniform, search his phone, private vehicle and apartment. Even when confronted with the fact that investigators had surveillance video of the Ligons traffic stop, Daniel’s version of events never wavered and matched the video and physical evidence exactly.
- No Need to Search: Even though Daniel Holtzclaw consented to allow investigators access to all of his clothing, personal vehicle, personal cell phone, computers and apartment, detectives Davis and Gregory never chose to exercise those options. When Daniel turned over his uniform during his interrogation, seasoned sex crimes investigators felt there was no need to take Daniel’s underwear into custody for testing (even though he had allegedly committed a rape only hours before - a allegation that was later revised to three rapes within hours of each other). Additionally, these same seasoned investigators never searched Daniel's personal vehicle, never searched his cell phone, and never searched his apartment or personal computers. Detectives didn’t even request his additional uniform shirts and pants that were hanging in his closet and laying in his dirty clothes.
- GPS ‘Evidence’: Investigators and the public have made a huge issue out of the GPS (referred to as AVL – Automatic Vehicle Location) evidence as proof Daniel Holtzclaw assaulted his accusers. In reality, the AVL is only useful in a criminal proceeding in two applications; One, if Daniel denied coming into contact with any of his accusers - which he does not. Two, if the AVL shows discrepancies in the assertions by Daniel's accusers - which it does. Despite what was reported by the media, in several instances the AVL data directly discredits the allegations of Daniel's accusers. In one instance, an accuser (Sherri Ellis) says she was taken to an abandoned school yard, removed from Daniel's patrol vehicle, bent over and raped for 10-minutes. Daniels' AVL clearly shows he only drove past the school yard, never stopped, never drove slower than 2 MPH and was only briefly in the area. In another instance an accuser (Regina Copeland) claims Daniel followed her home, parked in front of her driveway, told her to get into his patrol car and that he then made three right turns before pulling over, removing her from his patrol car and raping her. Daniel's AVL clearly shows he never even drove down her street. In reality, the AVL proves Daniel was doing his job – patrolling his designated area and coming into contact with the citizens in that area. As pointed out by Scott Adams, Daniel’s trial attorney, the hardest lie to uncover is one that is inserted into an otherwise very real story. If AVL is proof of a sexual assault, then every police officer is open to similar accusations and criminal prosecution by anyone they come into contact with while on patrol.
- 13 Women Couldn't All Be Lying: Investigators and the public frequently point to the sheer number of similar accusers who all had seemingly similar accusations. This seems pretty damning on the surface and was exploited to the fullest in the local and national media headlines. However, the similarities lose their punch when you realize the only reason the accusers have the same profile (black females with a history of drugs and prostitution) is because those are the only people investigators went out looking to interview. Additionally, as supported by the audio recordings and police reports of those interviews, investigators told the women up front (and even told their family members and loved ones) that they believed they may be a victim of a sexual assault perpetrated by a police officer they had contact with in the recent past. This, even after the allegations against Daniel and his face had been shown on the news. If you only interview women who fit a particular profile (that you completely made up) and you tell individuals up front what type of information you’re looking for (inappropriate sexual contact) then you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Investigators and the prosecution knew their case was only strong if they piled on ‘victims’ – even if those ‘victims’ allegations were shown to be lies.
- More Accusers Shown to be Uncredible than Credible: The public has been told of the 13 Daniel Holtzclaw accusers that resulted in criminal charges. They are even often referred to as the "OKC 13." What the public hasn't been told is that there were actually 21 accusers in total and that 62% of all accusers were found to be not credible. That's right, 8 of the 21 total accusers were eliminated almost immediately because they claimed to have been assaulted after Daniel had already been placed on administrative leave and had been relieved of his badge, gun and patrol car. Most of whom later admitted to police they lied. Of the 13 remaining accusers, 5 were not believed by the jury and resulted in acquittals. Eight plus 5 equals 13 women who either eventually outright admitted they lied or were dismissed by the jury. Thirteen of 21 is 62%.
- “Even if he didn’t Rape Nobody.”: Investigators, and even Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, would have you believe that the only reason 18 of the counts and five of the accuser’s assertions were denied by the jury was because there simply wasn’t enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – and that those women were ‘victims’ nonetheless. That assertion is misleading and untrue. In reality, the evidence for all of the accusations by all of the accusers was the same; They came into contact with Daniel Holtzclaw while he was on patrol and he committed a sexual assault upon them. No independent third party eye-witnesses and no direct evidence existed in support any of the criminal charges. The accusers that were denied their assertions were done so because they were proven to be liars by the defense. Take the example of one of the most high profile accusers, Shardayreon Hill. Her story has been retold hundreds of times by the media – it’s pretty damning stuff… Daniel allegedly sexually assaulted Hill while she was high and handcuffed to a hospital bed, days later he friends her on Facebook, he engages her in direct messages and phone calls. Daniel even admits to going over to her house – where Hill claims she was assaulted again. Yet, all of her charges (6 total) Daniel was acquitted of. Why? Because she lied. Hill’s account of being raped in a recovery room of a busy hospital emergency department is ludicrous. When confronted with the reality that none of her Facebook conversations with Daniel contained even a hint of sexual contact (consensual or otherwise) she claimed under oath that “he knew better than to put it into writing” and only talked inappropriately to her during their phone calls. However, phone records clearly showed the phone calls were limited to two, five-second calls – most likely never answered by the other party. The bombshell came when I located a video and audio recorded interview of Detective Rocky Gregory interviewing Hill. After the interview was over and Hill was outside the interview room, she made this statement she didn’t know would be recorded, “Is this good evidence? Even if he didn’t rape nobody, he’s still getting in contact with people he’s arrested.” Hill had just spent over an hour describing how she alleged Daniel repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Yet, she doesn't say "even if he didn't rape those other women." No, Hill clearly says "even if he didn't rape NOBODY..." Hill's allegations resulted in 6 criminal charges. Daniel was acquitted of all 6. Not because there wasn't enough evidence of guilty, but because there was overwhelming evidence Hill lied under oath. Despite her allegations not being believed by the jury, Hill is still often paraded before the media and the public as a victim. Hill has a pending federal civil lawsuit where she hopes to collect millions of dollars.
- Investigative Coercion: Investigators clearly coerced women into becoming ‘victims’ and making allegations against Daniel. Two striking examples of this were with accusers Terry Morris and Carla Raines. Morris insisted that she was attacked by Daniel while on foot and in route to the homeless shelter in downtown OKC. Morris stated that Daniel was driving an older model police car. Morris was also shown a photo lineup containing Daniel’s photo. The problem with Morris’ assertions are that Daniel didn’t patrol near the homeless shelter, his AVL never showed him by the homeless shelter, he was driving a new model patrol car during this time period and Morris picked out a different police officer in the photo line-up as her most likely attacker. Those facts didn’t dissuade Det. Rocky Gregory from spoon-feeding Morris details about a new time frame and location for her assault – intentionally making it match existing AVL records for Daniel. Morris initially resisted Det. Gregory’s attempts to get her to change her story. Only after she was arrested and sitting in jail on an unrelated charge did she contact Det. Gregory and change her story to match the one he had suggested. Daniel was acquitted of her allegations. Carla Raines was also approached by Det. Gregory. Raines spent the first several minutes of her interview denying ever having any inappropriate contact with any police officer. However, she did admit the only officer she had contact with in the past year was Daniel (though she didn’t identify him by name). Only after several minutes of persuading Raines to declare herself a victim – after referring to Daniel as “a really bad guy” with “lots of victims” did she take the bait and implicate Daniel. Det. Gregory never noted in his official police report that Raines had denied being a victim 7 times. When asked at trial if her denial was significant and should have been noted in the official report, Gregory said “no.” Defense attorney Scott Adams told the jury that Det. Gregory either had an agenda or was incompetent. Daniel was acquitted of her allegations.
- DNA ‘Evidence’: Much has been made about the case involving the only minor to make allegations against Daniel Holtzclaw. Adaira Gardner, 17 at the time, was the only accuser where DNA played any role in the investigation. The prosecution and the media played up the fact that Gardner’s DNA was found on Daniel’s uniform pants – on the outside and inside of the fly to be exact. In all honesty, that’s all most people had to hear to determine Daniel was guilty in their minds. I have to admit, I thought it was pretty compelling evidence at first too. However, the police department’s own DNA lab expert, Elaine Taylor, clearly testified the DNA, which was found in such a small quantity that it is defined as 'trace DNA,' was speculative at best. Under oath the prosecution’s expert admitted that she never tested for bodily fluids, like blood or semen. Taylor admitted she never even fluoresced Daniel’s uniform pants for any indicators of fluids (like vaginal fluid). Taylor only tested for common skin cells and only tested the fly of Daniel’s pants. The prosecution’s DNA expert confirmed at trial that they have no way of telling from what part of Gardner’s body the DNA came from, how it got on Daniel’s pants or even if Gardner actually ever made physical contact with Daniel’s pants. The prosecution’s expert agreed that Gardner’s DNA could have been transferred to Daniel’s pants via secondary transfer. Meaning, Daniel could have gotten Gardner’s DNA on his hands when he either pat searched her or was searching through her purse. Daniel could have then transferred that DNA to his pants via his own hands while going to the restroom, adjusting himself or simply tucking his shirt in. Its also important to note that Daniel allegedly raped two other women within hours of Gardner’s rape and those women’s DNA was not located on Daniel’s uniform. Not only is the DNA evidence in Gardner's accusations not conclusive in any way, Gardner’s own mother reported to investigators that Gardner’s only response to her on the night of the alleged rape was that she had met a “hot cop.” Gardner’s mother had also filed a missing person’s report on her daughter earlier that day and signed a battery complaint against her for punching her in the face. At trial Gardner’s mother denied the “hot cop” comment (even though her interview was recorded and played back to her). The mother even denied signing an assault complaint against Gardner. (even though the signed complaint was presented at trial).
As if the above information wasn't enough to cast doubt on the criminal implications of Gardner's DNA, there was a huge revelation after the trial. Closer examination of the DNA testing, done by Elaine Taylor with the Oklahoma City police department, revealed that Taylor had also found male DNA in the same spot on the fly of Daniel's uniform pants. That male DNA was tested by Taylor and determined not to belong to Daniel. Despite this realization, and the fact it further supported the defense's theory of simple secondary transfer DNA, neither Taylor nor the prosecution revealed this discovery at trial for the jury's consideration.
- Prosecutor Gayland Gieger Lied to the Jury: Lying by a prosecutor to a jury is a serious matter. Doing so intentionally, and with malice, by a prosecutor reeks of distain for the entirety of the criminal justice system he/she has sworn to protect. That said, that's exactly what Oklahoma County assistant district attorney Gayland Gieger did when he uttered these words to the jury... "I would suggest to you that the most important thing about Adaira Gardner is the fact that DNA from the walls of her vagina was transferred in vaginal fluids onto the outside and the inside -- not of his pockets, not of his cuff, not where he sits, but of the exact location she says his penis came into contact."
Those words were grossly sharp in contrast to the evidence and testimony as presented at trial. Despite the prosecution's own DNA expert testifying that there is no way of knowing how Gardner's DNA was transferred to Holtzclaw's uniform, prosecutor Gieger made certain his lies were the last thing the jury heard before they engaged in their deliberations.
It should come as no surprise that jurors have since commented publicly that it was statements made about the DNA that heavily impacted their verdict.
- My Rapist was a “Short, Black Man”: I’ve given examples above where three of Daniel’s accusers were shown to be liars and he was acquitted of their allegations. In addition there were two more accusers who were also shown to have given false, inconsistent or unbelievable testimony and Daniel was also acquitted of all of their allegations; Carla Raines and Florene Mathis. This fact may cause many to feel that the jury system fulfilled it's role and weeded out the truth from fiction. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I’ll make that point with this single last example… Accuser (now officially a victim) Sherry Ellis claims that she was forced to perform oral sex on Daniel after he stopped her and fondled her breasts, buttocks and vagina. Ellis then claims that Daniel drove her to an abandoned school yard, removed her from his patrol car, had her bend over and vaginally raped her for approximately 10-minutes before letting her simply walk away. Sounds pretty horrific doesn’t it. And, the jury believed it and convicted Daniel of the charges related to her allegations; Two counts of sexual battery, forced oral sodomy and rape in the first degree. But here’s what you probably never heard reported by the media. Ellis literally couldn’t recognize or point out Daniel as her attacker at the preliminary hearing. Ellis was the only accuser not to be asked by prosecutors to point out her attacker at trial (because of her inability at the previous hearing). AVL/GPS evidence from Daniel’s patrol car does indeed show him traveling to the abandoned school yard. However, the AVL device records an officer’s speed and it never shows Daniel driving slower than two-knots – let alone stopping for 10-minutes to rape anyone. And, lastly, the most likely reason Ellis couldn’t pick out her attacker in the courtroom is because she told investigators, and testified at trial, that her attacker was an officer that is routinely patrolling her neighborhood and that he is a short black male. In contrast, Daniel is over 6′ tall and pale. Despite all of those flaws in Ellis’ allegations, Daniel was convicted of crimes against her.
If it’s so clear to me that Daniel is most likely innocent and that reasonable doubt abounds in this case, then why was he convicted?
I still wrestle with that fact. That is one of the reasons I held back from reporting on Daniel’s case at all until after his sentencing and after I had a chance to process everything that I witnessed. My professional obligation to Daniel, as a part of his defense team, has ended. But my support for his innocence and my determination to expose the injustice of his investigation and prosecution are unwavering.
I literally just left Daniel as he paces in a cold cell on the top floor of the Oklahoma County Jail. Daniel waits as he is set to be transferred into the prison system in Lexington in less than 24-hours – where he will be profiled by other inmates and guards as a former gang officer who used his badge to commit horrific acts against minority women who most likely have direct ties to inmates in whatever facility Daniel will eventually be housed – most likely for the rest of his life.
If you are one of those who wished unimaginable harm upon Daniel, your desires will most assuredly be Daniel’s reality. A reality that could befall upon you or any of your loved one’s.
In summary, I worked on this case for countless hours. While NOBODY (outside of Daniel and his accusers) can definitively say these crimes did or did not happen, I can say with 100% confidence justice was not served and that Daniel was not proven to be guilty of a single crime. What happened in that courtroom should cause everyone to fear the jury system as we know it and remind the citizenry that prosecutors are not ‘seekers of justice’ – they prosecute, that’s all they know, and they often do it regardless of the truth.
Daniel did not choose the perfect victims. I submit to you that prosecutors picked the perfect accusers.
I believe Daniel to be an innocent man and Daniel’s story should be told.
*Note: There is much more that casts doubt on Daniel’s guilt and points to a flawed investigation. In this article I intentionally stayed out of race issues (beyond what was directly evidentiary in nature), I also stayed away from the victim’s and their background (except where necessary for evidentiary purposes). I also intentionally did not include any theories as to why any individuals or agencies acted in any particular way or what their motives may or may not have been – including Daniel, investigators, accusers, jury members, and more. I wanted this article to be only about the facts and evidence as it existed at trial and was presented in open court. Theories are for another day and often bias readers.