It is well known that women have a very difficult time having their accusations of being sexually abused and even raped being taken seriously. We also know that police officers who commit abuses of any kind are very unlikely to suffer any serious consequences even for the most egregious actions. Natasha Lennard writes about the predictable outcome when both those conditions occur in a single case.
THE YOUNG WOMAN who goes by Anna Chambers on social media had just a few short words for the public on Thursday evening. “Fuck the criminal justice system,” she tweeted. Earlier that day, through a call from her lawyer, Chambers learned that the two former New York Police Department officers who had raped her while on duty would serve no jail time.
Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, the cops who resigned after the incident involving the then-18-year-old Chambers, were sentenced to five years of probation after they pleaded guilty to 11 charges, including bribery and misconduct. Both men admitted to having sex with the teenage girl while she was held in their custody in 2017, an act that, thanks to Chambers’s case, now constitutes rape under the law (and always constituted rape under any moral reading of the word).
The pleas and the light sentences — handed down in a secretive court hearing — come at the same moment that NYPD officers and their belligerent union are protesting the long-overdue firing of Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who choked Eric Garner to death. Together with the closure of the criminal case surrounding Chambers’s ordeal, it could not be more clear the extent to which police impunity continues to rein.
“It’s completely outrageous,” Chambers’s attorney, Michael David, told me on the phone Thursday night. “They admitted on the record to having sex with her in their van. No jail time is just outrageous. Anna is hysterical.”
CHAMBERS’S CASE SHOULD have been clear-cut from the moment in September 2017 that a hospital rape kit found semen matching Martins’s and Hall’s DNA inside the teenager’s body. The young woman had been detained, handcuffed, and taken into the officers’ unmarked van, having been found in possession of a small amount of drugs. Chambers performed oral sex on both officers and had vaginal sex with Martins. Then the cops left her on a corner.
At the time, state law did not assert the most obvious of facts: that a person in police custody cannot consent to sex. The egregious legal loophole has since been closed, but it was too late to benefit Chambers — or to stop Martins and Hall from getting away with rape. All rape charges against the officers were dropped in March as prosecutors questioned Chambers’s credibility — an issue that should have had no bearing in a case with such clear-cut facts.
The police in the US can and do get away with murder, so it should not be surprising that they can get away with rape too.