Prosecutors from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office are still determining how they will proceed with their case against two former New York City police detectives charged with raping a woman in their custody, a case that has run into trouble following revelations that the accuser lied to a grand jury.
Former detectives Richard Hall and Eddie Martins were indicted in October 2017 by the grand jury on charges stemming from their arrest during a traffic stop in Coney Island in which the officers found marijuana and prescription anti-anxiety medication in the woman’s vehicle.
Hall and Martins allegedly put the woman, referred to in court documents by the pseudonym Anna Chambers, in a unmarked police van and took turns assaulting her while they drove around Coney Island and Bay Ridge, though the ex-cops say that the sex was consensual and that she offered to have sex with them to avoid getting arrested.
The Brooklyn DA hit Martins and Hall with a 50-count indictment and, in November 2017, Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced that the two officers quit the force.
Later, the state legislature passed a law to make it a crime for police to have consensual sex with people in their custody, which was legal at the time of the alleged assault on Chambers.
But in recent months the case against Hall and Martins, which had originally been set to go to trial last month, has run into serious complications.
Prosecutors had maintained that Martins arrested Chambers after she exposed her breast during the traffic stop, but Chambers testified in her separate civil suit against the detectives, the New York City Police Department and the city government, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, that she was actually stashing cocaine under her breast.
Earlier this month, Acting Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who presides over the case, appointed defense counsel for the 20-year-old Chambers in case she is accused of providing false testimony at trial.
According to court papers, the Brooklyn DA requested to get off the case and call in a special prosecutor because of the difficult conversations that have arisen because of Chambers’ false statements under oath, as well as the revelation that Hall is romantically involved with a Brooklyn prosecutor.
But, earlier this week, Acting Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic, the administrative judge for criminal matters in Brooklyn Supreme Court, denied motions from both the Brooklyn DA’s office and from defense attorneys to assign the case to a special prosecutor.
D’Emic, whom the Office of Court Administration tapped to rule on the issue of bringing a special prosecutor in the case, said that Chambers’ discontent with the prosecution is apparent, the issues that have arisen in the case will not disappear upon appointment of a special prosecutor.
“Any successor prosecutor will face the same difficulties with this complaining witness,” the judge said.
At the hearing Wednesday, Chun said that prosecutors indicated they do not plan to bring an Article 78 proceeding to challenge D’Emic’s ruling and that they would get four weeks to determine a course of action in the case.
Defense attorneys have made numerous motions to dismiss the charges against their clients. At the hearing, Mark Bederow, who represents Edwards, noted that prosecutors have expressed concern that calling Chambers to the stand in the case could present an ethical quandary.
“You can’t proceed on an indictment that’s filled with perjury,” Bederow said to reporters following the hearing.
In a statement issued after the hearing, a spokesman for the Brooklyn DA said the office is evaluating how to “carefully and ethically” proceed with the case.
“We are committed to holding these defendants accountable,” said Brooklyn DA spokesman Oren Yaniv.
Edwards, Hall and Chambers were all in attendance to the Wednesday hearing, as was Michael David, Chambers’ lawyer in the civil case. Chambers said that the civil case has survived a pre-discovery motion for summary judgment.
David also said that there is an effort to prevent his client from testifying because it would cause reputational harm to the NYPD.
“They’re doing everything they can to stop her testimony,” David said. Both the NYPD and the Law Department declined to comment on David’s statements.