DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A local woman says she was raped by a DeKalb County police officer, but he was never tried for the crime.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she got into an altercation outside O’Riley’s Food and Spirits on Covington Highway in December 2015. Officer Darren Dye-Harriel responded along with other officers.
No one was charged in the altercation, but the woman says Dye-Harriel told her to get in his police car for a ride home she didn’t need.
Instead of taking her home, she says he took her to a dark park, put on a piece of white clothing resembling a surgeon’s outfit, got her out of the car and then had sex with her.
“Rape. That’s what it is. It’s rape,” the woman told Channel 2's Mark Winne. “He took something from me and I will never forget it.”
She said she didn’t consent, but didn’t resist or say no because she was scared for her life.
“If I would’ve fought him back, yes, he would’ve murdered me. He would’ve took my life and I have kids,” she said.
The DeKalb County Police Department arrested Dye-Harriel on aggravated sodomy, kidnapping, false statements and violation of oath charges.
“We took very swift action,” DeKalb County Police Chief James Conroy told Winne. “His actions were reprehensible. His behavior and conduct was criminal.”
But when Dye-Harriel went to court, prosecutors decided not to pursue the more serious charges. He faced a judge on the two lesser crimes and the judge accepted the prosecution’s recommendation.
That recommendation boiled down to one year in jail, four years’ probation, a fine, community service, a psycho-sexual evaluation and an STD test.
“It’s just a miscarriage of justice,” the woman’s attorney, L. Chris Stewart, said.
The court transcript shows the judge had serious questions about the prosecutor’s decision not to pursue the more serious charges.
“Why isn’t this a rape charge?” Judge Linda Hunter asked.
“Even though we do not believe that we can prove that she consented, at the same time, we do not believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer knew she was not consenting to it,” the prosecutor replied, in part.
“That’s up to the jury. He was in uniform. She was in a police car,” the judge said.
The prosecutor indicated the alleged victim tested positive for a significant amount of alcohol and for drugs, a factor, he suggested, “would go towards her credibility when she would testify in court.” He followed that by saying, “That doesn’t excuse what happened.”
“Usually, you know, if you’re vulnerable, it makes you more susceptible to being victimized,” the judge said.
She added: “It’s your case. I don’t tell the DA’s office how to charge a case.” Later adding, “Honestly, I don’t understand why this wasn’t indicted as a rape case.”
The officer’s attorney, Michael O’Hagan, says Dye-Harriel pleaded guilty to the only crimes he committed.
“He maintains it was consensual,” O’Hagan said.
According to police documents, “Officer Dye-Harriel denied several times that he had any sexual contact with the female. After several minutes of explaining to Officer Dye-Harriel the evidence we had, he stated he and the female had consensual sex.”
“Did that officer, Dye-Harriel, sexually assault that woman?” Winne asked O’Hagan. “No, he did not,” O’Hagan said.
As for the white piece of clothing, O’Hagan told Winne, “It was a rainy night. I believe he had a rain jacket.”
O’Hagan says the now-former officer consistently maintained she came on to him in the parking lot and in the car.
Stewart says that’s not true. He says she has been consistent since the morning it happened that she never consented and went along without resistance because she believed he would kill her if she didn’t.
The former district attorney says the prosecutor made the right call since he had doubts about who was telling the truth.
“You have to make tough decisions,” said Robert James, who was district attorney at the time. “Reasonable doubt is the highest standard of law.”
James says he didn’t handle the case personally, but the prosecutor who did was one of the best on a stellar staff and ethical.
“He’s a Boy Scout,” James told Winne.
He says the prosecutor acted on his ethical duty not to bring charges he didn’t believe in.
“Your ethical obligation is to seek justice, not seek convictions,” James said.
But the woman says she doesn’t feel like she got justice.
“I cry every day about it. I do,” she said.
Her lawyer says he plans to seek justice another way -- in a lawsuit, after the county declined to negotiate.
“How this one was justified just bothers us and should bother everybody in DeKalb County,” Stewart said.
Winne reached out to current District Attorney Sherry Boston about the case. She sent the following statement.
“As a result of your inquiry, we have reviewed the matter of
which was disposed of via plea in 2016 prior to the start of my administration.
While unable to speak to the discretion employed by the prior District Attorney to proceed with prosecution in the manner he deemed appropriate, I can confirm that the law prohibits the case from being reopened to pursue additional charges. Criminally, the matter is closed.
Under my administration, my staff and I remain committed to victim advocacy. As always, that includes the thorough and complete evaluation and investigation of cases to determine the best and most appropriate course of action.”
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