Live

Watch CBSN Live

Rape victims react to former Oklahoma City officer's conviction

OKLAHOMA CITY -- In their first public comments since the rape convictions of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, victims of the man their lawyer called a "serial rapist with a badge" -- including grandmother Jannie Ligons, who filed the first police complaint against him -- spoke about the crimes they'd endured.

Holtzclaw was found guilty Thursday on 18 counts involving eight of the 13 women who accused him; the jury acquitted him on another 18 counts.

Dressed in black at a news conference Friday, Ligons, whose complaint and call to a local TV station began to expose Holtzclaw, praised God and described what happened and how she was "violated in June by a police officer," she said. "He stopped me...for no reason whatsoever and fondled me and did certain things to me" she said. The whole time, she was thinking he would kill her.

"All I could see was my life flash before my eyes and his gun in his holster on his right side," she said. She avoided looking at the name on his uniform for fear it would amount to a death sentence.

"He let me live to tell this story like a lot of victims are not able to do," she said.

That story, according to her attorney, is one not only of the "humiliating" and "heinous" things done to Holtzclaw's victims, but also of a news media and justice system that were slow to react.

Attorney Benjamin Crump said the news conference was not only a reaction to the verdict but also a celebration of the heroes who came forward and a message to America that "Black women matter."

He recounted his own decision to take the case after he said he was approached multiple times about the crimes, which he assumed would gain national attention once the allegations surfaced.

One person told him that "these 13 black women have been raped by a police officer and nobody's saying a word about it, nobody's doing anything about it, they're trying to sweep it under the rug," Crump said.

But it was the fears of one victim's father that his daughter's rapist would go free that finally convinced Crump to take on the case, he said. He said civil litigation has also been filed on behalf of Holtzclaw's victims.

The case only gained traction, he said, once people started Tweeting about it, saying the serial rape of more than a dozen women of any other race by a police officer would have been taken more seriously and that black women deserved the same attention.

"Where is the disdain? Where is the contempt? Where is the national outcry for their equal justice? Where is the national outcry for their equal protection?," Crump asked.

"We are not totally satisfied," said the father of one victim. He said he didn't understand "how this could have gone on for months, even years," with the officer turning off GPS to commit the crimes, running warrants but never showing up at the station, and nobody noticing.

"We are not being rocked to sleep because of this verdict," he said.

The same victim's mother said the officer's sentences should not be served concurrently and that the rapist "shouldn't be the only one" in trouble.

The first-degree rape convictions could have each carried a life sentence, but the jury recommended 30 years on each charge, and a total of 263 years in prison.

"We expect to get full justice," Crump said.

Ligons, the first to come forward in the case, said she was never worried about the verdict.

"...He just picked the wrong lady to stop that night," she said.

During a monthlong trial, jurors heard from 13 women who said Holtzclaw sexually victimized them. Most of them said Holtzclaw stopped them while out on patrol, searched them for outstanding warrants or checked to see if they were carrying drug paraphernalia, then forced himself on them.

Holtzclaw's attorney, meanwhile, described him as a model police officer whose attempts to help the drug addicts and prostitutes he came in contact with were distorted.

CBS affiliate KWTV reported the jury deliberated for 45 hours and found Holtzclaw guilty on four counts of first-degree rape, one count of second-degree rape, six counts of sexual battery, four counts of forcible sodomy and three counts of procuring lewd acts.

The allegations against Holtzclaw brought new attention to the problem of sexual misconduct committed by law enforcement officers, something police chiefs have studied for years. The case was among those examined in an Associated Press investigation of such misconduct.

Sentencing for Holtzclaw will take place on Jan. 21.