DPD scrutinizes handling of rape report against ex-cop
Detroit police are looking into an allegation that the department’s internal affairs unit in 2011 failed to investigate a report alleging that an officer had raped his estranged wife.
The woman says the officer, who retired last year, assaulted her in her Clinton Township home in 2010. The woman said about a week later she consulted an attorney, who told her it would do no good to report the crime because her husband was a cop.
She said she was afraid of her husband, and that it took a year to muster the courage to file a report with Clinton Township police. The detective, who wrote in his report that the woman cried throughout the interview, alerted Detroit’s internal affairs unit, although the woman said the unit never contacted her.
“We’re looking into whether IA handled this allegation properly,” Detroit police Chief James Craig said, adding that he opened the investigation after the woman last month sent letters to him and Mayor Mike Duggan laying out her allegations.
The Detroit News is not identifying the officer or the alleged victim because no charges have been filed. Clinton Township police sought a warrant against the officer in 2012, but it was denied.
“This is the hardest letter I have ever written,” the woman, who is a teacher, wrote to Duggan and Craig. “I am shaking all over as I write it, but I know that for my daughter and the girls I teach, and all of the girls yet to be born, speaking my truth is a necessity to help end the culture of sexual assault, harassment, and rape that we currently live in.
“You may ask ‘Why now? Why is she writing this now?’ I write now because of the countless other women who are standing up through their fear to tell the truth. I speak out now because another day of allowing men with powerful positions to get away with what they like is over,” the woman wrote.
The woman told The News she was prompted to write the letter in the wake of the “me too” movement speaking out against sexual harassment and assault.
“Seeing their courage made me want to speak out,” the woman said. “A week after writing the letter, I was contacted by (a federal agency) seeking a security clearance (for her ex-husband),” the woman said. “That made the whole ordeal come flooding back to me. I feel re-violated and re-victimized after seeing him trying to get that clearance.”
Reached by telephone, the woman’s ex-husband denied the rape allegation, insisting it was made during a bitter breakup and divorce. He declined further comment. His resignation last year was not connected to the rape allegation, Craig said.
Craig said his officers have contacted police in Clinton Township, although he said the scope of Detroit’s investigation is limited.
“(The officer) doesn’t work for us anymore, so internal affairs wouldn’t investigate,” he said. “And since the alleged crime happened in Clinton Township, that’s their jurisdiction. We just want to make sure we handled the allegation properly when it was given to us.”
The woman said within 48 hours of the assault, she told a counselor, adding she feared her ex-husband’s wrath if she told police about the alleged rape. “The counselor said, ‘if you’re afraid to go to police, go to an attorney,’” the woman said.
She said took her counselor’s advice, but the attorney she met with discouraged her from reporting the allegations.
“He said ‘there’s no reason to get a (personal protection order), because PPOs don’t stop bullets,’ and he said, ‘if you report this to Clinton Township, they won’t do anything about it anyway, because (her ex-husband was) a cop,” the woman said. “I was ready to report it at that time.”
The woman said it bothered her for months that she hadn’t reported the allegations to police. “A voice inside me kept saying ‘you have to report this,’” she said.
She finally went to police in July 2011. She said she was happy with how Clinton Township police handled her case, although she insists her story was not taken seriously by others in the criminal justice system.
Clinton Township Capt. Richard Maierle said his detectives investigated the woman’s claims and took appropriate action.
“We did a thorough investigation and submitted a warrant request to prosecutors, but they would not authorize a warrant,” Maierle said.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said he didn’t recall the case, and that his office didn’t track warrant denials at the time.
The alleged victim told a detective her husband, from whom she had recently separated, raped her in her bedroom in August 2010 while her two small children were in the house, according to a police report obtained by The News.
“She said that her family and friends have been telling her to report this to police,” Clinton Township detective James Hertel wrote in his July 29, 2011, report. “She did not come forward earlier because she was terrified that if anything happened to (the officer’s) job, then he would go ‘ballistic.’”
After the warrant was denied, the woman said she made a video discussing the alleged rape. She said the man who filmed her uploaded the video to YouTube without her permission in July 2012. She claims the video prompted threats from her ex-husband and his relatives.
The woman said she sought counseling at the domestic violence program Turning Point, which provided her a bodyguard from Threat Management Services. After receiving the alleged threats about the YouTube video, the woman said she attempted to file a personal protection order against her ex-husband.
The woman’s counselor, Kris Hickey, wrote a letter to Macomb County Circuit Judge Kathryn George urging her to grant the order.
Hickey wrote on Aug. 16, 2012, that the woman’s fear was “due to her ex-husband being a Detroit police officer. She described several incidents of emotional abuse, controlling behaviors and intimidation and anger ... please take this statement and my concern for (the woman’s) safety into consideration when making your decision to grant a personal protection order.”
However, at a hearing Aug. 27, 2012, the woman said, George misread the police report to mean that she didn’t want to press charges. George denied the protection order without reading any other documents the woman provided, she said.
The woman said during the hearing she begged George to reread the police report, in which Hertel wrote: “(The alleged victim) states that she does want to prosecute.” But the woman says George refused to take another look at the document that was sitting in front of her, insisting she knew what she had read.
“I can see how at first glance the report looks like it says she does not want to prosecute,” the woman said. “But that’s not what’s in the report. All (George) had to do was take another look at the report, but she refused.”
When the woman later asked for a transcript of the hearing, she said she was told it was not recorded.
“The case before mine that day was recorded, and the case right after mine was recorded, but miraculously, mine wasn’t recorded,” the woman said.
Gail Stevens, George’s secretary, said in an email: “Due to a technical error, there was no recording of any cases on August 27, 2012 from 1:30-2:00 p.m. Judge George does not have any comment on this case.”
The alleged victim said she still fears retaliation by her ex-husband.
“I live in constant fear,” she said. “It never goes away, but as a survivor, you learn to cope with it. When the ‘me too’ movement started, every time I heard one of these stories, I thought ‘me too.’ Nobody should have to live with this.”