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2 ex-NYPD detectives admitted to having sex with a teen after arresting her. They won't face rape charges.

Her case led New York lawmakers to ban police from having sex with people in their custody.

by Juliette Maigné
|
Mar 6 2019, 11:03pm

BROOKLYN, New York — Her case led New York lawmakers to ban police from having sex with anyone in their custody. But the officers who allegedly assaulted a teen they'd arrested, known as Anna Chambers, won’t be charged with rape.

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The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday in Kings County Supreme Court that prosecutors had dropped 43 charges, including all counts related to sex crimes, against two former NYPD detectives, Eddie Martins and Richard Hall. Chambers accused them of kidnapping her while they were on duty on Sept. 15, 2017, and forcing her to have sex in their unmarked patrol van.

The DA’s office has now filed nine counts of official misconduct and two counts of bribery against the officers, who are facing up to seven years behind bars. They could have served up to 25 years for the forcible rape of Chambers, who was 18 at the time.

Martins, 38, and Hall, 34, have since resigned from the force and admit to having consensual sex with Chambers but deny all the other allegations against them. They declined to comment as they exited the courtroom silently.

The Brooklyn DA’s Office explained Wednesday that prosecutors couldn’t ethically proceed with calling Chambers — a pseudonym used to protect her identity — as a witness because she’d changed her story several times, which put her at risk of perjury. Aside from the perceived credibility issues, the DA’s office couldn’t retroactively prosecute the 2017 case under a law that didn’t exist until March 2018, when New York lawmakers banned all sex, regardless of circumstances, between police officers and a person in their custody.

“It’s just outrageous what’s happening,” said Michael David, an attorney representing Chambers, who's now 20, in a lawsuit seeking $50 million in damages from New York City. “This is a bad message for all victims of sexual violence — that two on-duty cops could get away with it like this.”

"It’s just outrageous what’s happening."

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Chambers had been hanging out with two male friends in her car that Friday night in September 2017, when two undercover narcotics officers, Martins and Hall, pulled her over in Calvert Vaux Park for driving slowly, according to the civil lawsuit. When the officers searched the car, Chambers said, they found marijuana and loose prescription pills. After that, they sent the guys on their way, arrested Chambers, ordered her into their unmarked van, and drove her to a nearby Chipotle parking lot, according to the lawsuit.

Hall told Chambers that he and his partner were “freaks” and asked her what she would do to get out of trouble, according to prosecutors. They then allegedly took turns assaulting her in the backseat, before dropping her off at the 60th Precinct in Coney Island, near where she lives.

Chambers's mom then immediately took her to Maimonides Medical Center for a rape kit, which returned positive results matching both men’s DNA. While in the hospital, she said that several officers visited in an attempt to intimidate her and convince her to say that police weren’t involved in her assault.

A new law

After Chambers' case came to light, the New York state Legislature unanimously passed a law establishing that a person “under arrest, in detention, or otherwise in actual custody” is incapable of giving consent. But in an ironic twist, the bill can't apply to Chambers, whose allegations predate its enactment.

“We are fully committed to holding these defendants accountable by vigorously pursuing the charges in this case that can be proven with independent and reliable evidence,” a spokesperson for the DA’s office said in a prepared statement. “We believe — as the newly created statute recognizes — that any sexual conduct between police officers and a person in their custody should constitute a crime. However, that was not the law at the time of the incident.”

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“Because of this,” the statement went on, “and because of unforeseen and serious credibility issues that arose over the past year and our ethical obligations under the rules of professional conduct, we are precluded from proceeding with the rape charges.”

Depressed and struggling to get back to school, Chambers didn’t turn up to court on Wednesday. “She’s fed up,” said David, her attorney. “She was brave enough to speak out, and look what happened. She’s the one who got destroyed. They destroyed her, they destroyed her life. She’s a complete wreck.”

Last Thursday, after the New York Post reported the dropped charges citing anonymous sources, Chambers reacted on Twitter. “Of course crooked motherfuckin feds get away with everything,” she wrote, adding, “this whole law system's a joke.”

Martins and Hall maintain that their encounter with Chambers was consensual and that she was not in handcuffs. In other words, a teenager voluntarily had sex with two six-foot-something, 200-pound, armed detectives almost twice her age, who had just detained her for drug possession.

At the time of the alleged assault, that defense could have worked.

"A depressed victim of a vicious rape"

Until March 2018, New York was one of 35 states where a legal loophole — one that Gov. Andrew Cuomo called “egregious” — enabled police officers to legally claim that someone in their custody consented to sex.

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To support their claim that Chambers wasn’t raped, the cops’ defense attorneys contended that her behavior didn’t square with that of “a depressed victim of a vicious rape,” they wrote in an October 2017 letter to the DA’s office. Assistant District Attorney Frank DeGaetano, who prosecuted the case, has over two decades of experience working with victims of sexual violence.

The defense lawyers’ letter poked holes in Chambers’ credibility and cited a “provocative selfie” and a tweet in which she “bragged about being followed by the 'paparazzi.'” The letter also described videos of Chambers “using drugs” and “rapping in her ‘Fi5ty Milli’ persona about the case while joking about the millions that will be ‘in her bank account.’”

Worse still, the defense argued that Chambers perjured herself under oath by repeatedly changing the facts and jumbling the timeline of her account, including what she was wearing, the vehicle she rode in, and which officer assaulted her first.

Numerous studies, however, have suggested that disorganized and fragmented memory commonly occurs in victims of a traumatic event, including rape. The scientific community has found that distorting or omitting facts doesn’t necessarily signal false reporting or unreliability, but trauma.

“We brought to light facts that demonstrated that her testimony was false,” said Mark Bederow, who represents Martins. “The best evidence of that is the District Attorney agrees, they dismissed the indictment because they don’t believe her.” He added, “It’s not personal; cases have to be brought with credible evidence. This wasn’t.”

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In a Jan. 20 letter, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez did write that Chambers had made “a series of false, misleading, and inconsistent statements about the facts of this case” including “some false statements under oath.” Gonzalez added that prosecutors had to “confront” Chambers “many times about these statements.”

Bederow declined to comment on the officers’ version of the story but said that he and the defense would eventually address the DNA evidence — semen from both officers found in Chambers’ mouth and vagina.

“I think you also have to keep in mind that when this case started,” Bederow said, “the narrative was that these men grabbed a young woman off the street, handcuffed her, violently raped her. That’s what she claims. That’s what she claimed then, and we believe that’s what she claims today. The DA’s office finally has vetted those claims and has determined they’re not true.”

For Chambers’ civil attorney, Michael David, there’s no question about whether Chambers was raped.

“There’s a video of her coming out of the van at the Blink gym, which is down the block from the precinct house on West 8th Street,” David said. He also cited two witnesses who testified seeing the cops arresting Chambers in her car and hospital records mentioning her injured wrists. “There’s DNA evidence. It’s an absolute, 100-percent case,” David added.

Now that prosecutors have dropped the rape charges, David said he was always “very doubtful” that Chambers ever stood a chance at justice. “I knew this was an uphill battle from the beginning,” he said. “If you try to go against the cops, this is what happens.

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David said he’s received phone calls from other potential victims, but rape by an NYPD officer is nearly impossible to prove in a court of law. “I don’t know if victims are ever going to speak out again after what happened here today,” he added.

Still, Chambers’ battle against the system isn’t over. David plans to get the U.S. Attorney’s Office involved and request a federal prosecutor to look into violations of Chambers’ civil rights.

Martins and Hall are due back in court for a verdict May 8.

Cover image: NYPD car in Manhattan New York. Police car. (Photo by: Sergi Reboredo/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Images)

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