On October 30, NYPD detectives Richard Hall and Eddie Martins were arraigned on a 50-count indictment that included charges of first-degree rape, first-degree criminal sexual acts and second-degree kidnapping. The officers are accused of raping an 18-year-old girl who they found in possession of cannabis and two anti-anxiety pills.
Most New Yorkers probably know the story already, but here's a recap for those who don't. Keep in mind, all these details are alleged, not established fact, but the evidence detailed in various press accounts were strong enough to warrant arrests.
The incident occurred on the night of September 15. Dressed in plainclothes and on duty, the two detectives left their post and stopped a car in Coney Island in South Brooklyn. The teen was driving the car with two male passengers inside, and the vehicle had cannabis in the front seat cupholder. The officers put the teen in the back of the police van and told her two friends to pick her up at the station in a few hours. After the detectives drove away, Martins called the two friends and told them not to follow the van. The officers then asked the teen what she wanted to do in order to avoid being arrested for cannabis.
The officers, 37-year-old Hall and 33-year-old Martins, then took turns forcing oral sex and raping the teen girl in the back of the van. Surveillance footage shows the officers dropping her off 40 minutes later, at which point she called her friends and immediately went to Maimonides Hospital. The medical staff administered a rape kit, and the DNA evidence matched that of Hall and Martins. The officers did not deny the sex, but rather claimed the teen wanted it, too.
The court date is set for January 18, and the officers could face up to 25 years in prison each.
In a bad-ass move, the teen took to social media under the pseudonym Anna Chambers to call attention to the rape since, per Newsweek, "she didn't think authorities were seriously investigating [the rape], which she reported immediately." She quickly garnered massive support, which possibly hastened action on the case. Not surprisingly, the defense attorneys are using her "provocative selfies" against her, and one imagines they'll use the cannabis possession to suggest the teen has compromised morals or had impaired judgment that would make her want handcuffed sex in the back of a van with officers twice her age. We'll call that the reefer madness defense. Either way, many people have praised the teen for going on the offense through social media, responding in real time to attorney claims.
All this begs the question: How many other women were raped or forced into quid pro quos by police officers using the threat of a cannabis-possession charge against them?
Even in states that decriminalized cannabis, prohibition allows officers to stop citizens at the mere whiff of cannabis aroma. In many cases, the smell of cannabis becomes the gateway to extensive searches—like the officers in Texas who force-searched a 21-year-old woman's vagina in a gas station parking lot because they smelled cannabis—and it clearly opens the door to abuse, bribery and assault. It's also worth noting that NYC prohibits cannabis but does not prohibit officers from having sex with people in custody.
These are cannabis-related risks that legalization could immediately eliminate.
Photo credits: Anna Chambers Instagram and Pexels.