Local elected moves to make sex with someone in custody illegal

Just 10 days after two police officers accused of raping a teenager in a police van in southern Brooklyn left their jobs at the NYPD, a local politician took things one step further.

On Thursday, November 16, Councilmember Mark Treyger – whose district encompasses Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend and Sea Gate – introduced legislation that would prohibit law enforcement officials from engaging in sexual contact with someone in their custody.

Police Officers Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, formerly assigned to Brooklyn South Narcotics Division, appeared on their own at Police Headquarters on Monday, November 6 – three days before their scheduled department trial – and resigned.

The pair were charged in late October in a 50-count indictment that includes first-degree rape, first degree criminal sexual act and second-degree kidnapping, among other charges for allegedly taking turns raping an 18-year-old girl in the back of their police van after handcuffing her and placing her under arrest for drug possession.

The pick-up was made after a car-stop in the Gravesend area, but the duo is said to have afterwards driven around southern Brooklyn, out of the way of the precinct they eventually brought her to – even passing through Bay Ridge – all while taking turns sexually assaulting her.

According to Treyger, who represents the area in which the pick-up took place, the former officers tried to claim the acts were “consensual.”

While laws currently exist that explicitly state that inmates are incapable of giving sexual consent to corrections officers and prison workers, and parolees are incapable of giving consent to parole officers, there are no such provisions that apply to those in the custody of police or peace officers.

Furthermore, Treyger piggybacked the proposal with a resolution which calls on state lawmakers to amend New York State Penal Law to close the loophole that allowed the former detectives to claim the rape was “consensual.” His legislation and the proposed changes to the code would prevent consent from being used as a defense in the future.

“We need strong laws on the books to ensure that law enforcement officers who abuse their power and sexually assault someone in their custody can never again claim consent as a defense,” said Treyger. “I commend Kings County District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for moving swiftly to bring charges against these detectives, but the victim in this case is a teenager who will now be forced to relive the trauma of this crime in the public eye as this moves to trial.

“My bill explicitly states that law enforcement officers are prohibited from engaging in sexual activity with anyone in their custody, because there can be no meaningful consent when you are in the custody of a law enforcement officer,” he went on. “All law enforcement officials, including police and peace officers, must be held to the same standard. We have a growing coalition of elected officials and advocates who support this bill because we need to do more to protect the rights of sexual assault victims.”

Treyger’s legislation already has support from fellow lawmakers.

“All New Yorkers were shocked by the actions of the two former detectives who are now facing a judge and jury, and we were just as surprised to see that our laws are not as clear as they should be with respect to consent between those in custody and those entrusted with custody,” said State Senator Diane Savino. “I will be working with my colleagues on the city and state level to address the penal code so there is clarity in the law for every county in the state.”

“There have been a wave of high-profile, powerful men accused of sexually abusing and harassing vulnerable women and men – and officers who sexually harass and abuse vulnerable individuals in their custody are no different,” added Public Advocate Letitia James, calling Treyger’s bill a “commonsense measure” to ensure that no individual is above the law. “While the vast majority of officers are hardworking and deeply principled, we must have laws in place to hold those few unscrupulous officers accountable.”

If convicted, Martins and Hall face up to 25 years in prison.

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