January 22, 2016 at 7:08 AM
A former Oklahoma City police officer was sentenced to 263 years in prison Thursday, six weeks after he was convicted of rapes and other offenses that authorities say occurred while he was on duty.
Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, was convicted last month on 18 of the 36 counts he had been facing — including four counts of first-degree rape. A jury had recommended the 263-year sentence, according to the Associated Press, and District Judge Timothy Henderson agreed, ordering Holtzclaw to serve the terms consecutively.
"I think people need to realize that this is not a law enforcement officer that committed these crimes," Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said, according to the AP. "This is a rapist who masqueraded as a law enforcement officer. If he was a true law enforcement officer, he would have upheld his duty to protect these citizens rather than victimize them."
In a racially charged case that attracted national attention, Holtzclaw was accused of committing sex crimes against 13 different African American women while patrolling a low-income neighborhood. Holtzclaw — who is half white and half Japanese, according to the AP — was convicted by an all-white jury of charges related to eight of his 13 accusers.
Three of his victims spoke at Thursday's sentencing hearing, according to the Oklahoman, which reported that the trio included a grandmother of 12, who reported her assault to the authorities — an action that triggered an investigation. The newspaper reported that the 263-year sentence would include credit for the time that Holtzclaw has already served.
"On June 18, 2014, my life changed forever when I encountered Daniel Holtzclaw," the grandmother, Jannie Ligons, told the judge.
"I so desperately want my life back — the life I had before he took it away," Ligons said, according to Reuters.
"Every one of these women, from the 17-year-old teenager to the 57-year-old grandmother … survived a horrific experience," attorney Benjamin Crump said, according to the AP.
The civil rights lawyer, who is representing several of the victims in planned civil litigation against the city, added: "Hopefully, this is an example for the rest of America to follow, right here in Oklahoma. We stopped a serial rapist with a badge when everyone else had doubt."
"It is what it is," Holtzclaw's attorney, Scott Adams, told the AP after the sentencing. "It wasn't a surprise."
One day before Thursday's hearing, Adams had filed a motion seeking either an evidentiary hearing or a new trial for his client, the Oklahoman reported.
Adams mentioned in his motion an Oklahoma City detective's posting on social media. In that Facebook post, the lawyer claimed, the man made "statements revealing that there is evidence that was withheld from the defense by the government," according to the newspaper. The motion was denied, reports indicated.
Investigators said the ex-officer, who was fired by the Oklahoma City Police Department after the allegations emerged, used his position and power to target women in a low-income neighborhood. His case was highlighted in an Associated Press report that looked into the problem of sexual misconduct in law enforcement.
"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 during closing arguments, according to the news agency Reuters. "He counted on the fact no one would believe them and no one would care."
Throughout his trial, women told the jury stories of searches or background checks during encounters with Holtzclaw. Among those who testified against him: A teenager who told the court that Holtzclaw drove her to her mother's house, then inappropriately touched her after they arrived. She was 17 at the time.
Last month, after the conviction, Ligons, the grandmother, spoke with reporters and recounted what happened after a traffic stop with Holtzclaw, who didn't take the stand in his defense.
"I was out there alone and helpless, didn't know what to do," Ligons said then. "And in my mind, all I could think was that he was going to shoot me, he was going to kill me."
Another victim, Shardayreon "Sharday" Hill, told reporters that Holtzclaw "started to manipulate" her while she was handcuffed to a hospital bed.
"I was speechless, I was scared," Hill said then. "When everything was going down — I just, I felt — I mean, I was scared, I didn't know what to do. I felt like I was in survival mode, so I had to do what he was making me do."
After the verdict was announced in December, Holtzclaw sobbed in court. As he was being led away, he reportedly said, "I didn't do it."
This post has been updated.