The case of two former New York Police Department officers charged with raping a teenage girl was thrown into limbo on Thursday after the district attorney filed a motion asking a special prosecutor to take over the closely watched proceedings.
The development stemmed from weeks of legal sparring among defense attorneys, the district attorney’s office, and the alleged victim, Anna Chambers. Both sides have now accused Chambers of lying under oath.
“We are gravely concerned there is now a substantial risk of impropriety,” Nancy Hoppock of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office wrote in a letter to Judge Danny Chun on Thursday, five days before the former officers were scheduled to go on trial.
Chambers, who brought the allegations in September 2017 against two narcotics detectives, has long been accused by defense attorneys of changing details in her story — an accusation that amounts to perjury.
In New York, perjury is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum prison sentence of one year. While Chambers, now 20, hasn’t been charged with the crime, a judge last week assigned a criminal defense attorney to represent her if she takes the witness stand — presumably to protect her against such charges.
In turn, Chambers criticized the Kings County DA — the same office prosecuting her alleged attackers — for “trying to flip things on me and accuse me of perjuring due to inconsistencies I made while traumatized.” She accused the prosecutors of corruption and of protecting fellow law enforcement.
“You cannot flip a story on a victim,” Chambers tweeted.
On Tuesday, Mark Bederow, a defense attorney for one of the accused men, asked the judge to appoint a special prosecutor. Two days later, the district attorney’s office appeared to be in agreement. It wasn’t clear Thursday when the judge would make a decision.
“We are pleased that the Brooklyn DA has finally acknowledged that [Chambers] repeatedly lied and perjured herself, although they have known this for more than one year,” Bederow said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “We have been presenting them with proof of this since before the indictment. This case was flawed from day 1. Nobody should ever be prosecuted by perjured testimony and false evidence.”
In a letter requesting a special prosecutor, the DA said it was concerned it could not legally call Chambers to testify under oath because of her false statements. Additionally, an assistant district attorney who was not involved with Chambers’ case had been in a romantic relationship with one of the accused.
After news broke Thursday of the DA’s request, Chambers tweeted that the DA had “prejudiced me by releasing false statements against me. I need justice.” The tweet was later deleted.
Chambers’ civil attorney Michael David told BuzzFeed News he was “very, very upset that the prosecutor is withdrawing from the case. Nothing has changed in terms of what happened to Anna on that night.”
In the fall of 2017, Chambers accused two officers — Eddie Martins and Richard Hall — of raping her after detaining her, bringing national attention to a legal loophole that allows cops in most states to have sex with people in their custody if they claim it was consensual. Martins and Hall both said Chambers had consented to sex.
Chambers was 18 at the time of the alleged assault, which unfolded one evening in South Brooklyn, when the plainclothes detectives approached a parked car, finding three young people and marijuana.
Chambers said she was handcuffed and put into the backseat of their unmarked van, where the officers took turns raping her before dropping her off. DNA later that night in Chambers’ rape kit matched Martins and Hall, who resigned in Nov. 2017 and were charged with rape, kidnapping, and official misconduct.
Last February, BuzzFeed News told Chambers’ story, revealing that New York was one of 35 states where police could claim sexual encounters with detainees were consensual.
Lawyers for the officers have aggressively cast doubt on Chambers’ claims and character; in short, they’ve said she’s a pathological liar.
“[Chambers’] credibility will be the most important issue at trial,” attorneys for Martins and Hall wrote in a court filing in late November 2018, arguing that she embellished her encounter with the police because she was afraid her father — already frustrated with Chambers’ drug use — ”would punish her for being arrested.” (No arrest report was ever made that night.) The defense has accused Chambers of changing various details of her story over the past 16 months, including what she was wearing, the description of the van’s interior and exterior, and which of the two officers had handcuffed her.
The #MeToo movement began weeks after Chambers reported her rape, and her case garnered wide attention, thrusting Chambers into the spotlight as a symbol for victims standing up to law enforcement. Because of her case, the legal loophole allowing police officers to have “consensual” sex with detainees has been closed in multiple states, including New York, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Kansas, and legislation was introduced in the US Congress to prohibit federal officers from having sex with people in their custody and to incentivize more states to change their laws too.
“Guys this is a long ride, but my story will make a change. For everyone out there who ever got violated. This is for us. They will try to talk down on me & make me look bad. Nope. The truths in the DNA,” she wrote. “No matter how bad theyll try to make me look & accuse me, i will hold it down. I pray for justice.”
Some victims of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers have found justice in criminal courts. Most famously, the Oklahoma City Police Department officer Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of multiple counts of rape in 2015, after more than a dozen women brought allegations against him. He was sentenced to 263 years in prison.
However, as BuzzFeed News reported last year based on a review of a Buffalo News database, at least 26 law enforcement officers nationwide between 2006 and 2017 had their sexual misconduct charges dropped or were acquitted in states where the “consensual” loophole still existed.