Probe shows multiple failures in ex-detective's investigation of rape case

Karl Fields testifies in Judge Don Poole's courtroom in Chattanooga in this Oct. 24, 2014, file photo.


Former CPD detective Karl Fields was working these five homicide cases when allegations of misconduct came to light in September 2014. All of these cases have since been reassigned and Fields has been fired. 1. Victim: Barbara Johnson: Pending 2. Victim: Robert McClure: Cleared by arrest 3. Victim: Franklin Bonner: Pending 4. Victim: Quincy Bell: Pending 5. Victim: Darius Hinton: Pending Source: Chattanooga Police Department

The former Chattanooga police detective who was fired this month after sending a woman sexual text messages while he investigated her rape case last year also failed to properly keep track of evidence in the case, according to an internal affairs report.

Karl Fields never sent the woman's rape kit to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, didn't include two key DVDs in the master case file and didn't fill out all the required paperwork for a search warrant.

He also never interviewed the suspect in the rape case and failed to re-interview the victim when he discovered new evidence that seemed to contradict her story, according to the report obtained by the Times Free Press this week.

"You can see how he botched it from the beginning," said McCracken Poston, one of the woman's attorneys. "He had other designs for her. Maybe to keep her as someone he could prey on, it did not need to be a fast and efficient investigation."

But Fields' attorney, Jerry Tidwell, said the misfiled evidence didn't impact the case.

"He had a suspect arrested and bound over to the grand jury," Tidwell said. "The case was progressing. We're talking about paperwork and picking up a disk and putting it in the file."

He added that Fields was juggling a number of major crimes cases, not just this woman's.

During an interview with internal affairs investigators in February, Fields said he had not sent the woman's rape kit to TBI because he usually waits for the suspect to be indicted before sending a kit. He couldn't explain why he failed to interview the suspect.

On that same day, Fields said he knew that he crossed the line of professionalism when he texted the woman about masturbating, sex and naked photos, but he felt he needed to be "overly nice" to the woman because he was afraid she wouldn't otherwise show up to court.

He also admitted to investigators that the texts were flirtatious and inappropriate. But when questioned about particular text messages, Fields repeatedly told the officers he couldn't recall what he wrote.

"So after this day, you guys started sending out more flirtatious texts?" Sgt. Vincent Holoman asked Fields during the interview.

"Yes," Fields responded.

"You were rolling with it," Holoman said.


"You got pretty in-depth."

"I don't remember exactly the text messages, but we were having flirtatious text messages," Fields said.

"There was even one where you comment about her whooha."

"I don't remember."

"You were talking about the Rape Crisis Center pictures and photos?"

"I don't remember."

"OK," Holoman said. "What flirtatious texts are you referring to?"

"Uh, it was, uh I don't even remember text messages but -- I remember commenting about her eyes, telling her that at some point she was going to find a nice guy," Fields said.

Tidwell said Fields' personal preference is to delete his text messages as they come in and that he hadn't seen the text conversation with the woman in months.

"He was asked, 'Did you send this?'" Tidwell said. "In some instances he said yes, in others he said he was not sure."


The internal affairs report also detailed some of what a TBI special agent found when he investigated the allegations against Fields.

The agent discovered that some text messages had been deleted from the conversation before the woman turned the texts over to authorities. The holes "almost appeared as though she removed certain texts from certain conversations," according to the report.

Poston said any deleted texts are incidental and do not detract from Fields' misconduct. But Tidwell suggested the woman deleted texts in which she encouraged Fields' behavior.

The TBI agent also viewed a cellphone video of a sexual encounter between the woman and the man she accused of raping her and said the encounter appeared to be consensual, according to the report.

The validity of the rape claim reflects on the woman's credibility, Tidwell said.

"A rape allegation is a serious allegation to make," he said.

But the woman's attorneys denied any consensual contact.

"This was not consensual," Poston said. "It was under threat."

He pointed out she was bruised and beaten after she left the hotel room where she said the suspect raped her multiple times over two days.

"Nobody beats themselves to the point of losing teeth," he said.

The TBI agent turned his investigation over to a special prosecutor from the 9th Judicial District's office, according to the report, who will decide whether or not to press criminal charges against Fields.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradburyat or 423-757-6525.