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The Anna Chambers rape case may have played an integral part in changing New York's laws.
It was a case that made headlines last year. Chambers, then 18 years old, claimed that two on-duty NYPD detectives raped her repeatedly while she was in their custody, according to Buzzfeed News. The detectives, who were charged with first-degree rape, second degree kidnapping, receiving a bribe, official misconduct and other related charges according to DNAinfo, claimed that the sex was consensual. The case brought to light a surprising truth — at the time, New York was one of 35 states that did not explicitly prohibit officers from having sex with detainees, Buzzfeed found.
This will soon change. On Thursday, lawmakers in New York passed a bill that would hold police officers to the same standards as probation officers and prison and jail guards, who are already barred, nationwide, from having sex with those over whom they hold power.
Bill S7708, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza, passed unanimously, and states that those who have been arrested or detained are incapable of consenting to have sex. Before, the law had room for a legal loophole, wherein an officer would be able to claim that the sex they’d had with someone they’d detained was a consensual act, and then face only a misdemeanor for official misconduct, The Hill reports. In over a dozen states, the act is deemed an automatic sex crime.
The bill’s passing comes after the two on-duty New York City detectives, Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, accused of raping 18-year-old “Anna Chambers” (a pseudonym) pleaded pleaded not guilty. Chambers says that the two men drove her to a parking lot in their van and took turns raping her during the drive, The New York Daily News reports. DNA collected in Chambers’ rape kit matched Martins and Hall. Both men resigned from the force in November, after getting suspended and being stripped of their guns and badges.
Martins, who was released on $250,000 bail, and Hall, who was released on $150,000 bail, could face up to 25 years in prison each if convicted, CNN reports.
“I am confident that as this case moves from the court of public opinion and into the court of law, where it will be governed by the requirement of credible evidence rather than unchallenged allegations, it will become crystal clear that Eddie Martins did not rape or sexually assault the young woman,” Martins' attorney, Mark Bederow, said in a statement to ABC News.
The defense has repeatedly called into question the validity of Chambers’ allegations, pointing to, as evidence, her social media posts.
"She has posted Instagram videos of herself using drugs and rapping in her 'Fi5ty Milli' persona about the case while joking about the millions that will be 'in her bank account,'" reportedly read a letter that the officer's lawyers, John Arlia and Bederow, wrote to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, The New York Post reports.
Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez has criticized such tactics, commenting, "It's shocking, it's unfortunate that they could go ahead and blame a teenager for their clients' acts."
Police Commissioner James O’Neill has also condemned the alleged actions of Martins and Hall in a statement, ABC News reports, saying, "When a member of the NYPD is indicted on serious charges like these, it tarnishes all of the admirable things accomplished by other, good officers every day in neighborhoods across New York City."
"The two men at the center of these allegations quit their jobs as police officers," he continued. "Had these charges been upheld in an upcoming departmental trial, I would have fired them immediately."
Chambers filed a lawsuit against the city, the NYPD, and Martins and Hall in January.
"This lawsuit is to seek justice for Anna Chambers and also send a message to the NYPD that the citizens of this city will not tolerate any sexual misconduct or sexual harassment from its officers," said Michael David, Chambers’ lawyer. They will reconvene in court on April 5.
In the meantime, community leaders and politicians who advocated for stricter laws following news of Chambers' alleged assault are applauding Bill S7708’s passing.
"I am proud that this common sense reform closes this egregious loophole once and for all, and I urge other states to follow suit," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told BuzzFeed News.
City Council member Mark Treyger, whose district includes the Brooklyn neighborhood where the alleged sexual assault occurred, sponsored a resolution asking the state to change the law soon after news of the alleged assault broke, Jacobin Mag reports.
"I am proud that our leaders at the state level have recognized the need to finally close this antiquated loophole and ensure that our laws on sexual consent align with basic common sense and human decency," Treyger wrote on Twitter.
[Photo: Protesters assembled in Calvert Vaux park to march against the NYPD for raping Anna Chambers in New York, US, on 17 October 2017. Photo by Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images]