Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was sentenced to a full 263 years in prison on Thursday for a series of rapes and sexual assaults against black women living on his beat.
Holtzclaw was convicted in December on 18 separate counts of rape, sexual battery, forcible sodomy, and procuring lewd exposure. He had been charged with 36 separate counts stemming from the allegations of 13 different women. The 18 convictions against Holtzclaw came from charges levied by eight of those 13 accusers, and had a maximum combined sentence of 263 years. The judge could have decided to let him serve some of the terms concurrently, which might well have meant he’d have lived long enough to come out of prison in the future.
Instead, he will spend the rest of his life serving the entire 263 year maximum recommended by the jurors who convicted him.
Judge Timothy Henderson, a former police officer, was supposed to announce Holtzclaw’s sentence at 10:00 local time. But proceedings were delayed for over hours because Henderson first had to deal with a motion Holtzclaw’s attorneys had filed for a new trial. The lawyers say a city detective’s Facebook post and an interview with a juror suggest that prosecutors had withheld evidence that might have helped the defense. Henderson denied the motion to re-try Holtzclaw before announcing his sentence.
Before the judge told Holtzclaw his sentence, some of his victims got a chance to speak about what they want from the sentencing process. “The trauma affected every aspect of my being,” a victim identified as J.L. said. “I ask he receive the entire 263 years.” Another, identified as A., described the lasting impact of her assault at Holtzclaw’s hands, which took place when she was 17. “I feel like I’m dying on the inside,” she said.
Holtzclaw, 29, graduated college in 2008 with a degree in criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University, which he attended on a football scholarship. He’d served on the Oklahoma City force for about three years before being arrested and charged with serial sexual abuse of women in the community he was assigned to protect.
All 13 women who accused him of sexual assault in various forms were black. Prosecutors said Holtzclaw took a deliberate, systematic approach to his victims. When he ran into women who interested him while on patrol, he would run a background check using police data systems. Anyone with a record or an outstanding warrant jumped to the top of the predator’s list.
Prosecutors cited those details at trial to argue that Holtzclaw relied on systemic neglect of and skepticism toward black women to keep his spree of rapes and sexual assaults in the shadows.
“He didn’t choose CEOs or soccer moms. He chose women he could count on not telling what he was doing,” prosecutor Lori McConnell said in closing arguments. “He counted on the fact no one would believe them and no one would care.”
Eventually Holtzclaw’s formula broke down. He targeted a 57-year-old woman identified in court records only by her initials. That grandmother had no criminal record and was not a resident of the low-income area where he was assigned. Her decision to report her rape at the cop’s hands started a chain of events that ultimately led to Holtzclaw’s arrest, according to the Washington Post.
Once investigators started tracking back through the officer’s trail of assaults, the women he’d victimized got a chance to be heard. Shortly after he was found guilty, BuzzFeed’s Jessica Testa compiled pieces of their testimony alongside the jury’s ultimate decision on the specific allegations each woman made.