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Sex, videotape and the blue wall of silence

[COLORADO SPRINGS, CO] - Somewhere in the Colorado Springs Police Department's Internal Affairs office lies a file few will ever see. It includes a videotape of a conversation between a detective who is now a patrol officer and a woman who was once a man, and who has refused to be a victim.

Shawna Stone's allegations -- that Colorado Springs Police Department Det. Jeffrey Huddleston offered to fix a charge against her in exchange for a sexual favor -- led to the detective's temporary suspension and, presumably, a demotion.

According to Chief of Police Luis Velez and his predecessor, City Manager Lorne Kramer, the CSPD's strict confidentiality on matters pertaining to the criminal and procedural wrongdoings of their personnel is privileged information under the law. Both chiefs agree that a degree of trust must exist within the community to allow the department to investigate and discipline its own members.

Trust, however, is something Shawna Stone ran out of long ago. A 50-year-old male-to-female transsexual, Stone alleges that last year Huddleston offered to purge an assault charge from her records in exchange for a sexual massage.

In May and June of last year, Huddleston -- a decorated, 16-year veteran who was then working as a detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department's juvenile offenders unit -- visited Stone's residence on two occasions, the latter of which Stone secretly videotaped.

Stone's subsequent complaint to the CSPD launched an internal affairs investigation of Huddleston on both administrative and criminal wrongdoing.

While Huddleston was apparently exonerated from any criminal charges, he was found in violation of nine different policies and procedures, resulting in a 32-day suspension without pay beginning Christmas Day of last year.

In addition, Huddleston racked up an overall performance assessment in which his supervisors noted that he needed improvement in every area -- including taking initiative, use of time, communication skills, problem solving and teamwork.

However, the following month, Huddleston was awarded an annual raise similar to those in years past -- when his performance was stellar. Huddleston's annual salary is now just over $56,000.

Huddleston did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment for this story, and officials involved in the investigation into his alleged wrongdoing refused to discuss the case, noting the city's policy prohibiting them from discussing internal affairs investigations and personnel issues.

The blue wall of silence leaves many important questions unanswered; namely, did Huddleston attempt to exchange a legal favor in return for a sexual one -- or was this merely Stone's impression? And if Stone's allegations are true, why would Huddleston gamble his reputation and ascendancy within the police department for a mere massage?

What is clear about Shawna Stone's story are the issues it raises about police accountability, both to complainants and the community at large.

He is a she

For a time, Stone drove the only Trans Am in the country with "SHEMALE" vanity plates. Indeed, Stone, a tall, slender 50-year-old, makes no bones about who she is.

Stone, who holds two bachelors degrees, in business administration and Spanish, grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to Colorado Springs from Virginia Beach four years ago.

Here she began a new life as a woman -- both legally and through genital reassignment surgery. Stone, who has previously served in the military and was employed in education, currently works as an escort.

The last year-and-a-half has cost her a few friends and many sleepless nights.

Though she was to remain unaware for some time, her troubles began on January 26, 2001. That night, Stone attended a support group meeting for transgendered Colorado Springsarea residents where, she says, she was invited to discuss her recent sexual reassignment surgery.

During that meeting, another transgender woman claimed Stone made an uninvited come-on and filed a complaint with the Colorado Springs Police Department.

CSPD report #01-03719, taken by Officer Mark Robertson, details the alleged attack: "She [the alleged victim] stated she was at a transgendered support meeting when she was touched twice in her genital area by the reported suspect, Shawna Stone," the report reads. "She [the alleged victim] reportedly attempted to use a martial arts type block to prevent this unlawful contact of her genital area but the reported suspect did make contact."

The report noted that the victim was a female martial arts instructor from Pueblo.

Stone denies committing the assault, and the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office confirms that charges were never brought against her stemming from the complaint. The complaint, however, did generate a misdemeanor summons, which was never served on Stone.

Red flags

In late May 2001, Stone says she received a phone call at her home from Det. Huddleston, who at the time was teaching a sociology course at the University of Southern Colorado's School of Continuing Education titled "Human Sexuality and Social Behavior." It was the fourth course Huddleston had taught at the university's Colorado Springs site with the permission of his primary employer, the CSPD.

Stone alleges that Huddleston identified himself on the phone as an officer with the juvenile offender's unit of the police department and said he had a summons for her arrest. Stone said that this was the first she had learned about the complaint against her.

Forty minutes later, Stone says, Huddleston arrived at her door.

"He came over in his own car, dressed up in a suit, very businesslike, Stone recalled. "I let him in and I'm shaking like a leaf. I've never had this kind of stuff before."

Over a cup of coffee, Stone said Huddleston made an offer. He would, she said, help investigate the sexual assault charge against her in hopes of getting it dropped.

Stone said she offered to go to police headquarters in order to clear things up, but Huddleston dismissed the idea.

According to Stone, Huddleston said that if she went to the police office she would be handcuffed and thrown in jail where, as a transsexual, she would stand a strong chance of being harassed by other inmates.

"Red flags were going off," Stone said. "It just did not smell correct for a police officer to say that."

Stone also recounted asking Huddleston why the charge against her fell under the jurisdiction of a juvenile affairs detective, as neither she nor the alleged victim were minors. Stone said his response was "I have a lot of power. I can do whatever I want."

Stone said she initially had no idea why Huddleston was offering to assist her. But when she asked the officer what she owed him for his help, Stone claimed his reply was: "Well, I've always wanted a massage from your kind."

She considered the request to be sexual extortion.

Guinea pig for no one

According to Stone, Huddleston told her he would investigate the assault charge and contact her when he had new information to report. Shawna said she walked with Huddleston to his car, and memorized his license plate. Then, back inside, she put the coffee mug he had used into a plastic bag.

The following week, on June 1, Huddleston called to arrange another meeting. This time Stone set up a hidden video recorder in her living room, aimed directly at her kitchen table.

At the time, Stone said she felt that without documentation, no one would believe her story. "I'm not going to be a guinea pig for anybody," Stone said. Though she wasn't sure what would be recorded, her goal was to get Huddleston to reiterate their initial conversation.

The videotape depicts a close-up of Stone as she turns on the camera. Then a man, who is later introduced to a housemate as Det. Huddleston, walks in, and the two sit down at the kitchen table. Stone offers, and Huddleston accepts, a cup of coffee.

The sound quality of the videotape, which was obtained by the Independent, is extremely poor. However, snippets of their 30-minute conversation are clearly discernible.

Much of the discussion focuses on the legal aspect of the complaint against Stone. After expressing concern about her record, Stone said, "I'd like to extend my appreciation by helping make you ... aware ... of a different lifestyle."

A few minutes later Huddleston unmistakably remarks, "I'm always up for a good backrub."

According to Stone, the upshot of the recorded meeting was Huddleston's claim that after conducting an investigation, the alleged victim had agreed to drop the charges.

Stone claimed she asked Huddleston why, if the charges had been dropped, she could not have her record cleared. Again she expressed a desire to go to police headquarters to take care of it, but Stone said Huddleston was insistent that the matter "still needed to be taken care of." Again, Stone said she considered the comment to be a sexual come-on.

'This is very odd'

Two weeks later, on June 14, Stone drove to Denver and met with Denise de Percin and Carter Klenk of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, a non-profit organization that works to prevent violence within and against the gay, lesbian and transgendered community in Colorado.

Stone said she had been referred to the organization by a volunteer from the Gender Identity Clinic in Denver, who she initially contacted seeking help.

"I was struck by what a resourceful person she was to even think to tape something," said Klenk, the director of the program. "It hasn't been my experience that people have the capacity to think of doing something like that because of the trauma involved."

After viewing the tape, de Percin contacted Mike Brewer, a Denver-based attorney and director of the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project, a legal advocacy organization for Colorado's gay, lesbian and transgendered community.

On June 14, upon Brewer's advice, Stone initiated a formal complaint with the internal affairs unit of the Colorado Spring Police Department, which investigates allegations of police misconduct.

"I'm looking at it [the video] not so much as a lawyer, but as an everyday person saying, 'This is very odd,'" recalled Brewer. "The fact that [Det. Huddleston] would come to her house, the fact that he would offer to help her ... it just seemed very unusual -- especially if there was an arrest warrant out for her."

Denise de Percin agrees. "The video in context is particularly disturbing."

De Percin believes the video's content was what prompted Internal Affairs to immediately launch an investigation.

Officer violated procedure

On June 16, David Whitlock, a sergeant working with the CSPD's internal affairs division, drove to Denver where, in the presence of Klenk and de Percin, Stone turned over the videotape, along with the coffee cup Huddleston used during his visit.

The next day, Stone said, Sgt. Whitlock, CSPD homicide Det. Derek Graham and several other CSPD personnel met at Stone's home to arrange a pretext wiretapped phone call to Huddleston. Upon Stone's request, de Percin and Klenk were also present.

Stone and de Percin claim that former police Chief Lorne Kramer was also present, a charge Kramer, now the city manager, flatly denies.

"There has never been a case when I was chief of police where I went with an internal affairs investigator on an investigation," Kramer said. "It would be totally inappropriate for the chief, who is going to be the reviewer of the facts, to be involved in the investigation."

But when Stone called, Huddleston didn't answer so she left a message thanking him for his help and instructing him to "get with me" for the favor they had discussed.

The following month, on July 17, Stone said Det. Graham phoned to let her know that the sexual assault charge against her had been thrown out by the district attorney's office and that they were pursuing Huddleston's case as an administrative -- and not a criminal -- action.

According to CSPD Lt. Skip Arms, Huddleston had canceled the summons on Stone on June 7 -- a week after she claims he had visited her for the second time.

Graham's phone call was the last communication Stone had with the CSPD until nearly six months later, when a letter arrived in the mail. It was signed by then-police Chief Kramer.

"The investigation disclosed that the officer did violate policy and procedures," the letter, dated Jan. 3, 2002, reads. "As a result, the department has taken the appropriate administrative action. If you have any further questions regarding the investigation, please contact the Internal Affairs Unit at 444-7417."

CSPD reports that officer Huddleston was reassigned to street patrol last Dec. 23, 2001, shortly before the start of his suspension. He currently works a late-night patrol shift in the Gold Hill division.

Shawna Stone says she sleeps with a knife underneath her pillow, still afraid of police retaliation.

Unbecoming conduct

Graham and other officers involved in the investigation of Huddleston's activities declined to comment for this story.

According to reports obtained by the Independent, however, last December Huddleston was disciplined for engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer, private use of departmental information, leaving work assignments, and cancellation of summons and complaints.

He was also reprimanded for traveling outside his area of jurisdiction -- specifically to Pueblo, where the woman who had logged the complaint against Stone lived. The woman could not be located for comment for this story.

Stone's allegations that Huddleston had asked for a "sexual massage" do not appear on the disciplinary action form, though the dates coincide with her initial complaint and subsequent timeline.

In addition, Huddleston's supervisors noted that the detective had learned of Stone through her Web site,

www.geocities.com/shawnashemale, and that he pursued her for personal interest into her lifestyle. This contradicts the story Stone claims Huddleston told her: that he came across her name on the case report while searching through police records.

"Detective Huddleston saw the term 'transsexual' and decided to get himself some free sex," Stone alleged.

Beginning last Dec. 25, Huddleston received a 32-day suspension from his duties without pay.

Man with a badge

Prior to 2001, Huddleston's record as an officer was more than just clean.

In May of 1998 he was awarded the police department's Distinguished Service Medal for containing an armed suspect, which included a certificate, signed by Lorne Kramer and Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace.

He had also been commended personally by then-Chief Kramer for his role in the recovery of several grams of crack cocaine.

Other citations include saving a suicidal woman, and assisting in the capture of the serial burglar nicknamed "The Note Bandit."

Until last year, Huddleston, who completed a sexual harassment training workshop on Feb. 2, 1999, has consistently scored excellent marks in most categories for the past several years.

Annual performance assessments rate police officers in seven different categories, including communication, customer service, teamwork and leadership, initiative and problem solving, and knowledge and application of department policies and procedures.

Prior to 2001, his ratings were consistently in the "effective" category (the other categories being "needs improvement" and "not observed").

"He performs his duties without any supervision and volunteers to assist sector officers when not processing DUIs," reads a 1998 performance assessment written by Huddleston's supervisor. "He has taken the initiative to test for specialized units in order to enhance his career."

Part of this enhancement included earning a Masters of Science degree in Criminal Justice from St. John's University in Springfield, La. where he graduated summa cum laude. Shortly after the above assessment, Huddleston was promoted to the juvenile offenders unit where he worked as a detective until last Dec. 23.

However, in 2001 Huddleston received a "needs improvement" in all of those categories listed above.

Yet he still received a raise, commensurate with the previous years in which he had been rated as an effective peace officer. He currently earns $56,148 a year.

According to the University of Southern Colorado, Huddleston is no longer an instructor, though they were unsure why.

"His schedule got really busy," said Dana Rocha of USC's school of continuing education.

Accountable to themselves

Internal affairs investigations into allegations of police wrongdoing can take anywhere from a few days to as many months. According to City Manager Kramer, the role of chief of police is the reviewer of the facts and final determinant on the ultimate disposition of the investigation.

According to Cmdr. Robert Ownbey, who heads the internal affairs division, public complaints against officers can come in writing or via a telephone call.

During an investigation, testimony is taken, witnesses are interviewed, and the charges are heard before a board consisting of internal affairs staff, the chief of police, and a board of the suspect officer's peers.

The timeline for investigations into alleged police wrongdoing can stretch into months, as in Stone's case, where nearly six months elapsed between her initial meeting with David Whitlock and her receipt of Kramer's letter.

Sometimes, however, the CSPD can be considerably more efficient. Consider the recent example, in which attorney and Republican Party activist Bob Gardner demanded an internal affairs investigation last month.

Specifically, Gardner, who was the campaign chairman for County Commissioner Ed Jones' bid for the state Senate, requested an internal affairs investigation against a detective who had been interviewed by the Independent. Gardner did not like what a CSPD detective had told the newspaper during an interview.

In an equally unusual display of expedience, Cmdr. Ownbey personally conducted an inquiry into Gardner's complaint and, though internal investigations are supposed to be secret, reported his findings directly back to Gardner -- who does not work for the city -- within two days.

Allyson Collins, an associate director for the group Human Rights Watch, said that while policies differ in police department's across the country, it is not unusual for people who complain about their treatment at the hands of police officers to be denied access to their own files.

"It's an entirely arbitrary response from city to city," said Collins. "Usually there's a long period of silence followed with a letter saying, 'We're done with this now, thanks.' It's almost as if the complainant is an afterthought."

Colorado Springs does not have an independent committee similar to dozens of cities across the United States with civilian review boards that oversee citizen complaints against the police force.

Collins, who authored an extensive Human Rights Watch report on police brutality and accountability in the United States, said that while these boards can be effective -- by publishing reports and spreading information -- none have the power to mandate that the police follow their recommendations.

Six years and a clean slate

Through a call placed by Mike Brewer's office this summer, Stone learned that Officer Huddleston was still with the CSPD. Her previous calls requesting similar information had been denied by the Internal Affairs division.

Brewer, of the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project, believes Huddleston's job was saved by the CSPD's lack of accountability. "It's my opinion that if this were anyone else in a position of trust -- for example a psychiatrist, a minister, or a teacher -- then he'd be out of a job," Brewer said.

According to the CSPD's general orders, as long as officers subject to internal affairs investigations were not charged with a crime and do not exhibit repeat behavior, they may apply to have their files purged after six years.

If Jeffrey Huddleston returns to the level of performance that led to his promotions, commendations and glowing evaluations, then perhaps no one but Shawna Stone and himself will ever know the true nature of their brief relationship.

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