Chattanooga Police Department probes officer's texts to rape victim

Chattanooga Police Department probes officer's texts to rape victim

September 5th, 2014 by Shelly Bradbury , Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

KARL FIELDS - HISTORY OF ALLEGATIONS

2006: Fields crashes his personal car while off duty. He first tells investigators he was carjacked before eventually admitting he was intoxicated. He pleads guilty to DUI and receives a 14-day unpaid suspension from CPD.

2012: A defense attorney questions Fields' police work during a murder trial after audio files of interviews Fields conducted were lost somewhere between Fields and the evidence collection officer. Fields said he turned them over; the collection officer said he never got them.

2013: A defense attorney for a murder defendant accuses Fields of coaching a witness to lie about what she saw. The attorney claims Fields showed the witness a photo line-up and when she failed to identify the defendant as the suspect, he showed her another set of photos that were all of only the defendant.

2014: A defense attorney for a man charged with attempted murder says Fields and other investigators failed to test all the guns found at the crime scene for fingerprints and ballistics. The attorney argues that the charges against his client should therefore be dropped.

Source: Times Free Press archives

Chattanooga Police Department detective Karl Fields

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga police have placed an officer on administrative leave after a woman said he had an inappropriate relationship with her while he investigated her rape case.

A trail of text messages evidently exchanged between Officer Karl Fields and the woman, who under Times Free Press policy will not be identified in this story, appears to show that the pair had a sexual relationship between June and August, as Fields investigated her rape case. Copies of the text messages provided to the newspaper start with a discussion of evidence in her case, spiral into an apparent affair and stop days after her accused attacker was indicted on rape charges in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

"This is one of the most egregious instances of misconduct I have seen," said McCracken Poston, an attorney representing the woman. "The fact that a victim of a series of rapes and beatings has to deal with the added insult of the abuse from the detective on the rape case is outrageous."

The police department opened an internal affairs investigation into the allegations Thursday, Chief of Staff David Roddy said. During the investigation, Fields will be assigned to perform administrative duties rather than work on cases.

In hundreds of text messages provided to the Times Free Press, a texter who identifies himself as Fields and provides both Fields' work and personal email accounts confides in, flatters and flirts with the woman. He offers her rides, asks her to keep their conversations private and their relationship secret from her mother, updates her on the pending rape case, repeatedly calls her by pet names and asks her to send naked photos.

The woman is sometimes receptive, sometimes reluctant. She joins him for drinks, invites him to her house and asks for help finding a job. But at other times she turns him away and says she is not interested in sex.

On July 19, the texter who identified himself as Fields wrote a long confession to the woman.

"I know that your world has been turned upside down with recent events, but I have to admit that I want something from you," he wrote. "I want you to let me love you. I realize that (1) I have a wife, (2) you have a lot going on, but the act of me loving you will not change cause [sic] you or me any added complication."

Another time, the message is brief.

"Sorry for the impersonal call. Supervisor in my office."

On Thursday, Roddy cautioned that the investigation is in the very early stages and he can't discuss details.

"Once we start the internal affairs investigation, everything locks down at that point," he said. "We don't want to compromise where [the investigation] goes, because we're not exactly sure of that yet. We're just at the beginning of this investigation."

Fields has worked for the police department since 2003. As an investigator, he is responsible for criminal investigations of various major crimes, such as murder or rape, according to the police department.

This is not the first time Fields has faced allegations about unethical or shoddy police work. Since 2012, defense attorneys have accused Fields of coaching witnesses to lie during a murder trial, losing audio recordings of witness interviews and failing to collect and test all the evidence at the scene of an attempted murder.

In 2006, Fields was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after he crashed his personal vehicle on Bonny Oaks Drive. He initially lied to investigators and said he had been carjacked, but eventually admitted he was intoxicated.

Fields pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended on good behavior. The suspended sentence required Fields to meet a variety of conditions, including attending DUI school and paying a $465 fine. He also lost his driver's license for a year.

He was suspended for 14 days without pay from CPD for the incident.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com. Contact Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.