Cops smear rape survivor, share assault details after she criticizes NYPD, suit says

Inside a hospital recovery room in 2017, Dana Rachlin was visited by the chief of the New York City Police Department after she had been raped, according to a new federal lawsuit.

Rachlin, who worked with the NYPD through her community advocacy and police reform work, was hesitant to file a police report, but did so as encouraged by Jeffrey Maddrey, then the commanding officer of the department’s Patrol Borough Brooklyn North, a complaint filed April 8 says.

Maddrey reassured Rachlin that her privacy would be protected, and her identity would only be known to a few NYPD detectives, the complaint states.

Now, Rachlin accuses members of the NYPD of leaking her private information and details of the assault, as well as spreading damaging lies about her. The falsehoods, according to the complaint, include claims that she had lied about the 2017 rape, falsely accused a Black man of rape and was involved in “gang activity.”

The lawsuit details an NYPD-involved smear campaign carried out in retaliation against Rachlin after she “found herself openly at odds with high-level NYPD officials in 2020.”

After her public criticisms of “abusive” NYPD members receiving promotions, unidentified officers within the department set out to ruin her reputation and shared anonymous, defamatory letters about Rachlin with elected officials and community members, according to the complaint.

“Beware of the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” read the title of one letter about Rachlin, which was formatted in a style similar to NYPD operations directive memos, the complaint says.

Rachlin, a faculty member at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the lies about her have been “extremely draining and exhausting” at an April 9 news conference, the New York Daily News reported.

“It’s forced me to have conversations with people about my sexual assault when only a few (police) were supposed to know, but random commanders knew about it,” Rachlin said.

She filed her lawsuit against several former and current NYPD officials, including Maddrey and NYPD Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

The NYPD has reviewed the lawsuit, a spokesperson told McClatchy News April 9.

“While we believe it has no merit, we will not comment further on pending litigation,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

When asked about the lawsuit at an April 9 news conference, Adams said he knew Rachlin from when he served as a state senator from 2006 to 2013, following his 22-year career with the NYPD.

He said the case “is going to follow its process.”

What happened after the rape was reported?

Before and after the rape, Rachlin had collaborated with high-ranking NYPD officials through her nonprofit organization NYC Together, according to the complaint. She later co-founded We Build the Block, a subsidiary of her nonprofit, with the late actor Michael K. Williams.

Rachlin was sexually assaulted after NYC Together hosted a gala attended by Maddrey and other NYPD members at a Brooklyn hotel in October 2017, according to The City, which first reported the lawsuit. The assault reportedly unfolded inside the hotel.

When a rape kit was performed, it was “consistent with sexual assault and was positive for male DNA,” the complaint says.

On Oct. 18, 2017, two NYPD Special Victims Unit members supervised a controlled phone call with Rachlin and the person accused of assaulting her, according to the complaint, which says the person admitted to the assault.

Later, Rachlin was told the NYPD “ended the controlled call prematurely” while meeting with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the complaint says.

Rachlin decided to not pursue charges after she “was further counseled that the prosecution of any sexual assault allegation was likely to be a lengthy and emotionally draining process for (her),” according to the complaint.

She can reopen the case if she chooses, the complaint says.

Retaliation and defamation

From 2019 to 2020, Rachlin spoke out about violence involving NYPD members against the city’s young citizens, according to the complaint.

The complaint identifies NYPD Inspector Craig Edelman, then the commander of the 73rd Precinct in Brooklyn. He’s also named as a defendant in the case.

In May 2020, Edelman either took part in, or watched, as police pepper-sprayed young children in Brownsville, Brooklyn, on May 15, 2020, the complaint says.

The next month, he’s accused of watching, and filming, as a fellow police officer threw a Black Lives Matter protester to the ground, according to the complaint.

As Edelman’s influence within the NYPD grew, according to the complaint, so did Rachlin’s concern, which she voiced to Maddrey and Edelman’s supervisor, the complaint says.

Then, she says, retaliation followed.

After June 2020, Rachlin was turned away from police precincts, denied grants and community partnerships, the complaint says.

The letters

By 2021, defamatory statements about Rachlin spread, including that she lied about the rape, the complaint says.

Rachlin called Maddrey in April 2021 and “pleaded with (him) to put an end to this defamation campaign,” according to the complaint.

“You saw me when I sat in the hospital, and I was crying…you said, Dana, look at your neck. You have handprints on your neck, you have to do a report,” Rachlin told Maddrey, the complaint says.

Maddrey assured her that she was “not making false allegations” and later texted her saying he spoke to fellow NYPD members and that “there will be no further issues,” according to the complaint.

Then, letters and memos were circulated by NYPD members in 2022, saying Rachlin had consensual sex before making a false rape accusation, the complaint says.

Rachlin is bringing her lawsuit for “First Amendment retaliation, defamation, due process violations, and discrimination against a victim of a sexual offense,” according to the complaint.

She demands a trial by jury and seeks damages in excess of $150,000.

If you have experienced sexual assault and need someone to talk to, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline for support at 1-800-656-4673 or visit the hotline's online chatroom.

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