OKLAHOMA CITY — Twelve jurors will be asked to decide if a former Oklahoma City police officer was a naive rookie who was assigned to one of the most difficult parts of the city and fell victim to the women he's now accused of abusing.
Or, was he an out-of-control cop who sexually victimized women in the neighborhoods he was sworn to protect?
Prosecutors Tuesday painted Daniel Holtzclaw, 28, who grew up in Enid, as a cop who preyed upon addicts, prostitutes and troubled women in northeast Oklahoma City because, he reasoned, the women thought no one would believe them if they told authorities what he did.
Holtzclaw's pattern of abuse culminated with the sexual assault of three women during a single shift for Oklahoma City Police Department, before one victim came forward to accuse him, prosecutor Gayland Gieger told jurors during a lengthy opening argument.
Holtzclaw, 28, is accused of sexually abusing 13 women, most of whom came forward after police launched an investigation into the former officer.
He faces three dozen charges stemming from allegations he coerced women to expose themselves, touched them inappropriately or forced them to have sex. He has pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, Scott Adams, one of Holtzclaw's attorneys, painted his client as a man who long dreamed of becoming a police officer, was proud of his work and was proud to wear a badge.
After being cut by the Detroit Lions and losing a spot in the NFL, Holtzclaw decided to join Oklahoma City Police Department because of the department's size and its proximity to his family in Enid, where he had moved from Guam when he was just a boy.
Adams told jurors about how Holtzclaw, as a rookie officer, was assigned to patrol one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city — where drugs, violence and murder are commonplace and residents are not especially fond of police.
Still, Adams said, Holtzclaw wanted to get to know residents. Those residents, he added, “have street smarts like you can't even imagine.”
“He's very naive,” Adams said of the officer. “He's very gullible.”
Adams described Holtzclaw's accusers as troubled. Many have extensive criminal histories, drug addictions or are prostitutes, he said, and have every reason to make up allegations against the officer.
Eight of the 13 accusers, he noted, have sued Oklahoma City and Holtzclaw over their abuse allegations.
It will be up to a jury of eight men and four women, selected earlier in the day Tuesday, to decide Holtzclaw's fate.
The trial is expected to last a month.