tillsonburg/iStock(NEW YORK) — On Wednesday, Brooklyn prosecutors dismissed sex-related charges against two former New York City police officers who a teenager claimed wrongfully arrested her for drug possession and raped her in the back of an NYPD vehicle.
Instead, prosecutors refiled a new case against Richard Hall and Eddie Martins for two counts of third-degree bribery and 11 counts of official misconduct — charges that have left both sides confused.
This news comes after over a year of New York statute changes, questions about the teen's testimony and public outcry around the case.
"We are outraged, this was a bad day for victims of sexual violence across the country," said Michael David, the civil attorney for the alleged rape survivor, who identified herself under the pseudonym "Anna Chambers" on social media.
Hall, 33, and Martins, 38, previously faced up to 25 years in prison for the alleged September 2017 kidnap and rape of a then-18-year-old drug suspect. With the new indictment, the former officers face a minimum of two and-a-third to seven years in prison if convicted for the top charge of felony bribery.
Chambers told authorities hours after the encounter that the plainclothes detectives forcibly had sex with her while she was handcuffed in the back of a police van as they took turns driving through Bay Ridge and Coney Island in Brooklyn.
Hall and Martins said the sex was consensual and resigned from the NYPD shortly after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced the charges in November 2017.
Chambers filed a $50 million civil rights lawsuit against the city and former officers in November and testified to a grand jury.
As the civil case proceeded and pieces of Chambers' testimony were released, the defendants' attorneys, Mark Bederow, Daniel Bibb and Peter Guadagnino, filed several motions with Justice Danny Chun of the Kings County Supreme Court requesting to dismiss the criminal indictment.
"We sat down with the DA's office, pre-indictment, and told them not to do this and to thoroughly vet the case," Bederow told ABC News on Thursday. "They knew about these issues, but still went ahead and indicted."
Prosecutors consistently stood behind Chambers until January, when the defense attorneys filed another motion to dismiss the case in light of additional details the victim gave during her civil case. In the defenses’ 26-page motion dated Dec. 31, they urged the prosecutors to re-present the case to a new grand jury because they “repeatedly elicited perjured testimony” to the original grand jury.
In Chambers’ November testimony, she admitted to stuffing drugs inside her bra when the officers initially questioned her in Culvert Vaux Park — a fact she originally denied. The prosecutors submitted a nine-page response on Jan. 4, denying “prosecutorial misconduct” allegations by the defense and continued to stand by Chambers' grand jury testimony.
Days later, prosecutors advised Justice Chun to assign Chambers a criminal defense attorney weeks before she was slated to testify in the criminal trial. A law enforcement source told ABC News that Chambers revealed "dozens of inconsistencies" since testifying in the grand jury, and prosecutors cannot give her immunity if she lies on the witness stand.
On Jan. 17, Kings County Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy Hoppock submitted a letter to Justice Chun requesting to remove their office from the case and to assign a special prosecutor.
In the two-and-a-half page letter, Hoppock gave three key reasons for their recusal request: a romantic relationship Hall had with a prosecutor not assigned to the case, "some false statements" Chambers gave under oath and their ethical obligation to not call Chambers as a witness.
Brooklyn’s Chief Administrative Justice Matthew D’Emic denied Hoppock’s request on Feb. 4. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office, Oren Yaniv, told reporters after Justice D’Emic’s order that “our office will continue to evaluate how to carefully and ethically proceed in this case and we are committed to holding these defendants accountable.”
The next court date was set for Wednesday, when prosecutors informed Justice Chun they dismissed the 50-count rape indictment and filed a new one for bribery and official misconduct charges. The prosecutors also informed the court they will not call Chambers as a witness in their new case.
"We are fully committed to holding these defendants accountable by vigorously pursuing the charges in this case that can be proven with independent and reliable evidence," wrote Yaniv in a statement issued on Wednesday.
"Because of this and because of unforeseen and serious credibility issues that arose over the past year and our ethical obligations under the rules of professional conduct, we are precluded from proceeding with the rape charges," Yaniv wrote in the statement.
The new charges left both the defense attorneys and David perplexed.
"This was never a rape case, never," said Guadagnino, who represents Hall, a married father of two. "But, the fact is, the victim never said this was a bribery either."
David agreed with Guadagnino on the bribery aspect of the case.
"They're trying to do this case without her. There's DNA. They're saying there was bribery, but there was no bribery, it was a rape," said David who said Chambers is in a "depression" and "won't leave the house" since the new charges were announced.
For the bribery case, prosecutors have to prove that when Hall and Martins arrested Chambers they agreed to a benefit in exchange for not booking her for drug possession.
The official misconduct charges are centered around several elements, including the officers not logging Chambers' arrest and not reporting to their superiors that they left their designated area.
"If she doesn't testify, then there's no evidence of what happened in the car. They cannot prove what happened because there's no evidence," said Bederow, who, along with Bibb, represents Martins. "It's a weak and flawed case. We are going to move to dismiss this."
Since the case came to light, several advocacy groups have supported Chambers, and a New York statute was created stipulating that any sexual conduct between police officers and a person in their custody should constitute third-degree rape, which carries a penalty of up to four years in prison.
However, because that statute came out after Chambers' allegation, Yaniv said, it "cannot be applied in the new indictment."
Judge Chun returned the $250,000 and $150,000 bond amounts for Martins and Hall, respectively, and ordered them released on their own recognizance.
Their next court date is May 8.
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