OKLAHOMA CITY—Thirteen poor, Black females took on a predatory cop, the police department and criminal justice system that cradled him, and won.
After denying his request for a new trial based on claims prosecutors hid evidence, federal judge Timothy Henderson ordered former Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw to serve the maximum 263 years consecutively in prison for committing rapes and other sex crimes against five of them while under color of authority.
“Justice was served today,” said Jannie Ligons, the grandmother who reported her assault to police immediately. He had preyed on women who had drug dependency pasts or histories of incarceration, however, Ms. Ligons had no checkered past that he could level against her.
“I just know how glad I am, and how proud I am, especially for all the victims, how we were traumatized, and all the things we had to go to,” Ms. Ligons stated. She thanked everyone who helped them.
Facing Holtzclaw again
A heavy, protracted gasp emanated from the courtroom’s saturated public box once Judge Henderson meted out the sentence. Nearly 100 people crammed inside including press. Dozens more filled the hallway just outside.
The survivors, their families and attorneys who sat in the row immediately behind Mr. Holtzclaw’s family showed various signs of relief after Judge Henderson remanded him back into county jail under sheriff’s supervision and then to prison, most likely out-of-state.
His supporters, far outnumbered by those present for the survivors, put their heads down and others stared ahead at Mr. Holtzclaw as he stood at the judge’s bench, draped in a baggy orange inmate jumpsuit, shackled by waist chains, his hands cuffed in front of him.
The air seemed to seep out of the courtroom again as three of the women returned to the witness stand one after the other to again confront their attacker before the judge’s ruling.
Far unlike when they testified during trial under intimidation, scrutiny, and character assassinations by Mr. Holtzclaws’ attorney and, they say his family, supporters and the local press, the survivors spoke freely as they delivered victim impact statements about how his assaults affected them. First up was Ms. Ligons.
She added levity to the otherwise highly tense moment when she commanded onlookers, “Don’t laugh at me,” while she slid her eyeglasses onto her face.
“The trauma affected every aspect of my being,” she began. The serious atmosphere returned instantly and the courtroom fell quiet enough to hear a pin drop when she said her life changed forever June 18, 2014, after the unforgettable encounter.