Rape Testimony Heard

Woman tells court of sex-for-freedom coercion by city police officer

January 12, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,sun reporter

In the opening of a trial that promises a glimpse into a rogue specialized Baltimore police unit, a woman testified yesterday that an officer coerced her into sex in exchange for freedom from drug charges.

Crying throughout much of her testimony, the woman said Officer Jemini Jones crudely threatened to send her to jail -- not only for the marijuana she had been arrested with, but also for possessing other drugs.

The woman's rape claim in December 2005 sparked a wider internal police review of the Southwestern District "flex squad," a small group of officers who worked mostly undercover in drug investigations.

That internal review is continuing, police said, but documents in the rape case show that flex officers have been accused of keeping a stash of drugs at the station house, planting evidence and stealing from people they had arrested.

Jones, 29, who faces a separate set of rape charges in another case, is the first of three flex officers to stand trial in connection with the rape case. The trials of Officers Brian Shaffer and Steven Hatley will follow. All three have been suspended without pay since they were indicted a year ago.

Assistant State's Attorney JoAnn Stanton said in her opening statement that the accusations against the flex officers were disturbing to her, both as a prosecutor and a citizen.

"No one should have to trade their freedom for sexual activity," Stanton said.

Stanton told the predominantly female panel of 12 jurors and five alternates that the woman felt "violated all over again" by how she was treated when she reported her claim to police internal investigators.

Jones' defense lawyer says the rape never happened.

Attorney Janice L. Bledsoe said in her opening statement that the woman had agreed to become a police informant the day of the alleged rape and that she had created the rape story as a cover when two male friends spotted her stepping out of a police car.

"He chose to protect and serve," Bledsoe said of Jones, a City College graduate, college football player and father of five. "And he has never broken that oath."

Bledsoe told jurors the woman's story "won't make sense."

When she took the stand, the 23-year-old woman described in detail her encounter with Jones. The Sun does not name alleged victims of sex crimes.

She said she and three friends were in a car about 7:30 p.m. Dec. 27, 2005, smoking a blunt -- a marijuana-filled cigar -- near Old Frederick Road when Jones, Shaffer and Hatley pulled up in an unmarked police car.

The woman said she and her younger female friend were handcuffed together, while the two men they were with were free to leave. The woman and her friend were taken to the Southwestern District station house on Font Hill Avenue. The woman said Jones questioned her about drug dealers and homicides.

Then, she said, the encounter took a disturbing turn.

She said Jones threw little baggies of white rocks on the table and said the drugs were hers and that she would be going to jail.

"I told him, why would he do something like that," she testified. "He knows they're not mine."

That's when, she said, Jones propositioned her. Jones also asked the younger friend "what she was willing to do to keep herself out of jail," the woman said. But the officers thought the friend "looked too young," so she was taken outside to a police car, the woman said.

The female friend is scheduled to testify later in the trial.

Alone in a small office with Jones, the woman said, he took a condom out of a desk drawer, pulled his pants down and instructed her to do the same. After he had sex with her, she said, she tried to take the condom, but Jones stopped her and said, "I could get in trouble for that."

The officers returned the blunt to the woman and her friend, gave them a small bag of marijuana and a pack of cigarettes and drove them downtown, the woman testified.

There, the woman said, she and her friend encountered two male friends and told them what happened.

She said she then walked to University of Maryland Medical Center because she was in pain. But she said employees there told her to go to Mercy Medical Center for treatment.

A University employee is scheduled to testify.

The next afternoon, the woman went to police internal affairs.

Dabbing at tears, she testified that detectives there repeatedly called her a liar and told her she was going to jail for making up the story.

The detectives took her to the station house, where she encountered and identified Hatley, she said. She also pointed out where the sexual encounter had taken place and showed detectives where Jones had retrieved the condom.

After obtaining a search warrant for the station house, Stanton said in her opening statement, investigators found 40 condoms in that desk drawer.

That is when, Stanton said, they began to believe the woman. She will continue her testimony today, and Jones' attorney will then cross-examine her.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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