There are some people who, for reasons that completely elude me, choose to involve handcuffs in their sexual encounters. Anna Chambers did not.
The young woman, who goes by the name “Anna Chambers” on social media but is withholding her legal name, says that on September 15, she and two male friends were driving near Brighton Beach. They were pulled over by the undercover detectives for being in a park after closing time, and their car was searched. The police found drugs in a bag next to Chambers; one friend was also found with pills on his person. The cops handcuffed only Chambers and drove her away in an unmarked van.
The teen alleges that the police drove to a nearby Chipotle parking lot and then, while she remained handcuffed, forced her to perform oral sex on them. One officer, she said, then raped her before leaving her on a street corner near the 60th Precinct. According to her attorney, she went to a hospital that night and was given a rape kit. Law enforcement sources told the New York Post that DNA found on Chambers matched the two officers, a fact confirmed by the teen’s attorney.
The two cops, Brooklyn South narcotics detectives Richard Hall and Edward Martins, don’t deny the sex with the 18-year-old. Their defense is that it was consensual. In the usual way a cuffed arrestee in the back of a Brooklyn South narco van consents to sex with two cops.
Bizarrely, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office is “investigating” the defense.
Claiming to have received consent, whether it is based in any truth or not, betrays a policing culture that refuses to recognize its own outsized power over those it alleges to protect and serve. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office is currently investigating the case to determine whether the claim of consent is credible under law,* but the fact that consent seems to be on offer as a defense at all speaks to how the police themselves view rape — a dynamic that needs immediate redress.
While the law specifically prohibits corrections officers from having sex with inmates, there is no specific law prohibiting arresting officers from having sex with arrestees.
Under New York penal law, there can be no consensual sex between corrections officers and prisoners in their charge, nor between a patient committed to a hospital and those charged with their supervision. Yet there is no such law for the police. While, as the NYPD spokesperson told me, “it is against department policy to have sex on duty,” the law does not preclude consensual sex between an arresting officer and a person in their custody.
Section 130.05, which precludes consent for screws and others in custodial and post-custodial supervisory positions, was enacted to address the ongoing problem of guards claiming that inmates desired them, enticed them, compelled them to have sex, because they were lonely and wanted someone. The State called bullshit, and prohibited it, as it should.
Cops? It was too obvious to require explicit prohibition. Using the ability to arrest, to seize, as a wedge to either coerce sex or, as alleged here, ram a penis into a teenager’s mouth, didn’t require a law. It was so obviously, so flagrantly wrong and coercive that no one in their right mind would entertain the notion that this wasn’t rape.
But once the Brooklyn DA left the door slightly ajar, lawyers for the two cops went to town.
In a letter to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, lawyers for disgraced cops Eddie Martins and Richard Hall targeted the young woman’s raunchy social-media posts since the alleged Sept. 15 attack and her $50 million claim against the city.
Examples cited by lawyers John Arlia and Mark Bederow include a “provocative ‘selfie’” the 18-year-old woman posted on Instagram and a tweet in which she “bragged about being followed by the ‘paparazzi’” following an Oct. 13 meeting with prosecutors.
Apparently, she had no rap sheet or the New York Post would have had a story about it.
“This behavior is unprecedented for a depressed victim of a vicious rape,” the lawyers wrote.
How Anna Chambers reacted to being raped may relate to the amount of damages she will be awarded in her civil suit, but has nothing to do with the crime perpetrated by the two cops. Nor, as the facile conclusion contends, is there a “right” way for a rape victim to behave, even if her post-rape actions are unseemly. This doesn’t go to evidence that the rape occurred, but how she’s dealing with it.
In sending the letter, the cops’ attorneys assume that people react to trauma in the same ways — they don’t — and imply that someone who posts attractive selfies of herself online (and thus may have sex regularly) surely consented to rape with the two officers who detained her. The attorneys also overlook one of the biggest things about social media: people curate images of how they want to appear, and in this case, Chambers may simply want to appear in control through her posts.
Notably, the Brooklyn DA condemned the cops’ efforts to taint the victim.
“Without commenting on this ongoing investigation, defense counsel’s characterization of how a rape victim should behave is inaccurate, inappropriate and demeaning,” a spokesman for the Brooklyn D.A.’s office said in a statement.
Even if we accept the cops’ claim that Anna Chambers “enthusiastically consented” to sex, it’s unfathomable that they couldn’t grasp the circumstances, the situation, that made consent an impossibility. Even if she was playing the cops for a walk, for a subsequent lawsuit, were they so naive and incompetent as to not recognize that they were dealing with a person they arrested, held in custody, owned?
Clearly, Penal Law §130.05 needs to be amended to expressly include something that would have been so obvious as to defy the need to say, that cops can’t have sex with a person they just cuffed, and a person under arrest can’t consent to sex. As for the prosecutors in Brooklyn, that they are even entertaining the notion that this wasn’t rape is a disgrace.
*Update: It’s been pointed out to me that this is not a quote, and there is a question whether this was expressed by any source at the Kings County District Attorney’s office. If not, then this may not be their position and there may not be a question as to whether they are seriously considering the possibility that consent could provide a defense here.
Update 2: The two cops have been indicted for first degree rape.