SANTA FE, N.M. — The District Attorney’s Office will not pursue charges against a Santa Fe Police detective accused of raping a female fellow officer.
Attorney John Day said his client, who has given her resignation notice to the police department, was disappointed when she learned prosecutors would not take the case.
“I think they thought it was too hard of a case to take,” Day said. “But as a former prosecutor I know there are often hard cases and prosecutors sometimes have to take the hard cases on and try to win.”
District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco said she made the decision to not prosecute after reviewing all of the reports and audio interviews from a New Mexico State Police investigation.
“Based on the facts or evidence, I could not prove there was force or coercion in order to prosecute the case,” Pacheco said.
The female officer, in an interview, said she was surprised and angered by the decision and disagreed with some of the statements attributed to her in the State Police report, which she thought weakened the case.
And, she said, she’s trying to figure out where she goes from here.
“I feel like my life has been totally altered,” she said. “The entire course of my life I thought I would be a cop forever. Well, 20 years. I loved my job. I was good at my job. I actually cared about people, and it’s heartbreaking to have to give up that dream.”
The female officer, who had been on the force about two years, alleged that the rape occurred July 31 at the home of a city detective who has been with the department since 1999. According to State Police reports, the assault allegedly happened after the woman went to the detective’s home to talk to him about problems he said he was having with his wife.
She said the man kissed her and she said, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. … This is not gonna happen. This is not OK.”
She told investigators that the detective started to undress and kiss her. She said she “froze” and didn’t say anything else as he had sex with her.
“She stated she felt like the whole situation didn’t look good,” the State Police report stated. “She didn’t feel like she could leave.”
The woman gave a second statement to police later, telling them she didn’t know in the first interview whether it was rape, but after she was not in shock she knew he “absolutely” raped her.
The report states that she did not fight the man and she did not have defensive wounds.
The detective told police that the sex was consensual, that no force was used and that the woman did not say she did not want to have sex.
In the interview with the Journal , the woman said she disagreed with one phrase police used in the report, stating that some of the sex acts felt “really enjoyable.” She said this statement was taken out of context and relates to a term regarding rape she has since learned is called “body betrayal.” She said the comment was made in a wider context in which she said she enjoyed the physical experience, but did not understand how that could happen because it was not consensual.
Claire Harwell, the project director of the Community Justice Project, said she has been working with the woman as an advocate, and that the case was “not unlike many other sexual assaults.”
“The victim just doesn’t feel heard,” she said. “If you say, ‘No, no, no, no, no, don’t do this’ and someone keeps going, how long would you be expected to voice something that’s not being honored?”
Harwell also noted sections of the report that indicate the woman did not fight back or suffer injuries, saying that sometimes in cases of rape a victim goes into a kind of shock called “tonic immobility.”
“It’s a kind of paralysis that sets in when you’re terrified,” she said. “It’s not something you can control.”
In the case of the woman’s statement that the contact felt enjoyable, Harwell said, “That is not uncommon either.”
“Our bodies are hardwired to do a particular thing if they’re touched in a particular way,” she said. “Terror can heighten that. It doesn’t mean they enjoyed that.”
The woman officer turned in her two-week notice of resignation to the police department Monday, stating she was quitting because the detective was still employed with the department and she does not feel safe.
The detective is not on police duty, but he is doing non-law-enforcement work for the department away from the station, spokeswoman Celina Westervelt said.
In her resignation notice, the woman also said there is a cultural problem of sexual harassment in the department.
“It has been my experience that the majority of male police officers treat the female officers with very little respect, making the SFPD a difficult place for female employees to work,” her letter states.
Police Chief Ray Rael said that allegation “surprised” him.
“This is the first I heard of any allegations that this is a culture, that there are problems out there,” he said.
He said he asked for an internal investigation relating to the woman’s sexual harassment claims and that investigation is ongoing.