SAPULPA, Okla. (AP) — A judge refused on Thursday to dismiss a rape charge against a former Oklahoma Highway Patrolman accused of assaulting three women during traffic stops, rejecting defense claims that the contact was consensual.
Creek County Judge Douglas Golden also set a Feb. 9 arraignment for Eric Roberts in three criminal cases, which include charges of indecent exposure and sexual battery.
Roberts was among three Oklahoma law enforcement officers accused of sexual misconduct on duty around the same time in 2014.
One of Roberts' attorneys, Carla Stinnett, argued at Thursday's hearing that the woman was never in Roberts' custody and could have called for help on her cellphone or gotten out of the car at any time.
"He never told her she was under arrest for anything," Stinnett said.
Prosecutor Maxey Reilly said the woman couldn't get out of the situation. "A reasonable person would not feel free to leave," Reilly said.
Roberts faces 11 criminal counts, including second-degree rape, indecent exposure, sexual battery and embezzlement. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.
The allegations came to light when a woman filed a federal lawsuit alleging Roberts raped her following a traffic stop. Two more women later made similar allegations.
The head of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has said Roberts turned off his dashboard camera during six traffic stops, including two referenced in the lawsuit.
Roberts was suspended in July 2014 and resigned two months later following his arrest.
Around the same time, in September 2014, former Tulsa County sheriff's deputy Gerald Nuckolls was charged. He was convicted last year of sexual battery and indecent exposure for his actions while on duty — touching a woman's breast and exposing himself while he said he was looking for drugs. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Former Oklahoma City Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted in December of raping and sexually victimizing women while on his beat and was sentenced last month to 263 years in prison on 18 separate counts, including first-degree rape. He had been arrested in August 2014.
The Associated Press highlighted Holtzclaw's case as part of a yearlong investigation into sexual misconduct by law officers, which found that about 1,000 officers in the U.S. lost their licenses for sex crimes or other sexual misconduct over a six-year period.
Those figures are likely an undercount, because not every state has a process to ban problem officers from law enforcement. In states that do decertify officers, reporting requirements vary, but the AP's findings suggest that sexual misconduct is among the most prevalent complaints against law officers.
The AP's "Betrayed by the Badge" series:
AP: Hundreds of officers lose licenses over sex misconduct: http://apne.ws/1J0bVlI
AP: Officer sex cases plagued by lax supervision, policies: http://apne.ws/1SSnNf4
AP: Broken system lets problem officers jump from job to job: http://apne.ws/1QARkuu
AP investigation into officer sex misconduct, by the numbers: http://apne.ws/1J0c6gU
A look inside AP's investigation on officer sex misconduct: http://apne.ws/1lB6J2L