Sex incident involving HPD officer prompts lawsuit
Lawyer says case is a way to hold officers accountable
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
The Houston mother had just dropped her children off at day care last summer when Houston police officer William T. Archer II pulled her over.
He didn’t write the woman a ticket or take her to jail. He abused his authority by having sex with her.
The incident is the basis of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer and the city of Houston, alleging that Archer raped the woman and that the Houston Police Department allowed a sexual predator to patrol the streets.
After being driven to a location in southeast Houston, the woman performed oral sex on Archer. Evidence of the encounter would be found on the woman, the officer and in the squad car.
Archer, 35, pleaded guilty last year to improper sexual activity with a person in custody, a felony. Under deferred adjudication, he was sentenced to five years’ community supervision in February. Deferred adjudication is a form of probation in which defendants avoid conviction if they complete the terms.
The woman’s lawsuit says that Archer “intimidated her and used his authority to force her to perform oral sex in exchange for her freedom.” The suit also alleges that HPD inadequately trained and supervised Archer by failing to notice “the obviously sick, demented and otherwise socially deviant behavior of a sexual predator in its midst.”
Taft L. Foley II, who represents the woman, said the civil suit is a way to “guard the guardians.”
“We have to have police officers held accountable, especially when it comes to public officers who have been entrusted with taking care of our citizens,” Foley said. “Justice is holding people accountable for their deeds — not letting them roam the streets committing sex crimes.”
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money.
Archer’s lawyer, Craig Washington, said he limits his comments on unresolved civil cases.
“I have a basic philosophy that cases should be tried in the courthouse, not in the newspaper,” he said.
Impact on woman
The 36-year-old woman was described by her lawyer as a Christian who is active in her church. She continues to have crying spells and is terrified of authority figures, Foley said. She is in counseling and is concerned that Archer gave her a sexually transmitted disease.The Chronicle does not name victims of sexual assault. The woman declined to comment for this story.
In July, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ordered Archer to give his STD test results for the past three years to the woman’s lawyer. The judge also ruled that the woman has a right to see some of Archer’s cell phone records and tax returns.
If the case is not settled in mediation, it likely will go to trial early next year.
When the encounter happened, Archer had been on the force almost six years. Until that Friday morning in July 2006, he had a spotless complaint history.
Archer was placed on “at-home status” the day of the incident and resigned from the Houston Police Department in December after refusing to give a statement during the HPD internal investigation.
His sentence also requires him to pay $2,000 in restitution to the woman for her counseling and to write an apology to HPD.
As of Friday, there was no such letter in Archer’s personnel file, said Roland Bienvenu, a senior human resources specialist with the city.
The city legal department chose not to represent Archer, said Annie Teehan, a senior assistant city attorney who was unable to comment further about pending litigation.
According to court documents, the city is gearing up to deflect claims that HPD contributed to Archer’s conduct and could call two assistant chiefs as expert witnesses at trial.In his expert report on the incident, Assistant Chief Michael A. Dirden wrote that the encounter sprang from consent on both sides.
“According to the plaintiff, the oral sex was performed because of an at least implied promise that Archer would not take the plaintiff to jail, even though the plaintiff had outstanding traffic warrants,” Dirden wrote.
At the time of the incident, Dirden, who is a lawyer, oversaw the department’s internal investigations, including allegations of police misconduct. He now heads criminal investigations.
“The Houston Police Department does not condone sexual contact between an officer and a person in custody, regardless of whether or not it might be called consensual,” he writes. “Whether you view it as a violation of law, or as unprofessional conduct, or an act of oppression, or just horrible judgement (sic) on how to act, Archer’s conduct was simply outside of department policy.”
Risk of disease
Such encounters could prove deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is possible to contract HIV, which causes AIDS, by performing oral sex. The transmission risk increases if the person performing oral sex has cuts or sores around or in the mouth or throat.Oral sex presents a potential, but “very low risk” for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and human papillomavirus, said Dr. Lisa Hollier, an STD specialist and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
Since 1999, there have been at least a half-dozen cases of male officers in the Houston area allegedly coercing women under their authority into performing oral sex. Some have lost their jobs and faced indictments. Several other on-duty male officers have been accused of making sexual advances toward women in custody.
‘Miscarriage of justice’
In 2000, a former HPD officer received a 20-year prison sentence for forcing a woman to perform oral sex during a traffic stop.Foley said his client was disappointed when Archer’s criminal charge was resolved without jail time. “I think this was a horrible miscarriage of justice,” Foley said. “My client has a perception of a criminal justice system that does not take her victimhood into account.”