Former Oklahoma policeman sentenced to 263 years for raping four women

By Heide Brandes
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Former Oklahoma City police officer Holtzclaw stands with his defense attorney Adams, as his sentence is read during hearing in Oklahoma City

Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw (C), stands with his defense attorney Scott Adams (L), as his sentence is read during hearing in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Sue Ogrocki/Pool

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of raping four women and sexually assaulting several others while he was on duty was sentenced on Thursday to 263 consecutive years in prison, the maximum allowable sentence.

In December, an Oklahoma City jury found Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, guilty on 18 of 36 charges of sexual assault, including rape. The sentence was given by District Judge Timothy Henderson and came after victims told the court on Thursday that the former officer had destroyed their lives.

Prosecutors said Holtzclaw preyed on women who had trouble with the law and forced them into sex, hoping their word would not hold up against his in court.

"I so desperately want my life back - the life I had before he took it away," Jannie Ligons, one of the victims of Holtzclaw, told the court in an impact statement.

Holtzclaw, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, did not speak on his own behalf. His lawyers said after the sentence was handed down that they planned to appeal.

Another victim, Sherry Ellis, told the court she never thought a police officer would do what Holtzclaw did.

"He deserves what he gets. There will never be a day where I don't think of how I was violated," Ellis said.

Ahead of the sentencing, the judge denied a defense motion filed a day earlier seeking a new trial.

Thirteen women testified against the former officer at his trial last year, describing encounters in which Holtzclaw forced his victims to perform sexual acts on him.

Holtzclaw sexually abused multiple women between December 2013 and June 2014, targeting victims from a poorer, mostly African-American area of Oklahoma City, prosecutors said.

Holtzclaw, who did not testify at his trial, was fired over the accusations in January 2015 after approximately three years on the job.

He broke down in tears when he was found guilty, telling jurors "I didn't do it," as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and James Dalgleish)