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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Attorney Sam Byrd walks with his client, former Chattanooga police officer Desmond Logan, into the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse Thursday, September 12, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Logan reached a plea agreement last week, in which he admitted to raping three women in his custody between 2015 and 2018 as well as shooting a Taser at a fourth woman.

Current Chattanooga Police Department personnel were aware of evidence that could have implicated one of its officers in a 2015 rape as early as summer 2016.

However, the investigation fell through after officers lost touch with the victim and couldn't confirm the name of the officer she was accusing. The evidence would remain at Partnership's Rape Crisis Center for four years, and officer Desmond Logan would go on to admit he raped at least two other women and deprived the rights of a fourth woman he drove to an isolated parking lot and held against her will with a Taser.

A current Chattanooga police lieutenant contacted Partnership's Rape Crisis Center in 2016, instructing its employees to hold onto evidence that could have implicated Logan in the 2015 rape of a woman in his custody, according to records viewed by the Times Free Press and two sources with knowledge of the interaction. The officer, Anthony Easter, was investigating the case but did not know it was connected to Logan, Easter told department leaders this week.

Easter was the commander of the police department's Family Justice Center — the departmental unit that worked with the rape crisis center the most — at the time. He was the supervisor of personnel who would routinely pick up rape evidence kits that women wanted tested.

What is Partnership’s Rape Crisis Center?

The Partnership for Families, Children and Adults serves the community through counseling, crisis intervention and prevention services. It has victim support services; deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing services; elder services; youth services; and family strengthening services.

Its Rape Crisis Center provides forensic medical exams as part of a comprehensive service delivery to victims of sexual assault that includes: counseling, safety planning, court accompaniment; emotional support and follow up, according to a center spokesperson.

 

A whistleblower called it "very unusual" for the commander to ask to pick up evidence himself. That task was typically handled by lower-level employees. However, Partnership employees did as they were instructed and held onto the evidence until Easter could come pick it up. He never came.

It sat in an evidence locker at the rape crisis center until the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office picked up the kit in 2018 for its investigation into Logan for a separate case.

"Our policy is that all rape kits are stored and locked based on Tennessee law until the appropriate law enforcement agency picks them up," Partnership spokeswoman Sharon Love wrote in an email. According to policy, the center could not have bypassed the police department and taken the evidence to be investigated, she wrote.

Easter's 2016 contact is outlined in a daily briefing a Partnership employee emailed to other personnel at the end of their shift in July 2016. The practice was part of the normal course of business at the rape crisis center to keep managers updated on what happened each day. The document was shown to the Times Free Press but not released by a whistleblower who feared it would put some of the Partnership employees mentioned in the document at risk if it were to be published.

A source first alerted the Times Free Press of the incident in June 2018. The details of Easter's interaction could not be confirmed at the time until a second source confirmed the information earlier this month and provided supporting documents.

The sources questioned whether there was an attempt by some within the department to cover up knowledge of Logan's behavior.

Easter and Chattanooga police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal have strongly denied the claim. They maintain Easter was following proper protocol. He was beginning to investigate the 2015 rape but did not know at the time it involved Logan, they said. The daily briefing viewed by the Times Free Press notes the victim's name and the rape kit number. However, it does not list the officer's name.

"To our knowledge, Lt. Easter's actions were within the purview of his job responsibilities and there does not appear, based on the information you provided, to be a violation of any [departmental] policy," according to a statement from Myzal.

The records are the first public information linking a current police department officer to knowledge about the case before 2018. Easter maintains he did not know the officer was Logan until it had been reported by the Times Free Press in 2018, according to Myzal. The department was looking into a complaint by Logan's latest victim at that time.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke stands behind the integrity of the investigation.

"Officer Logan's actions are despicable, and he deserves stiff punishment. I am grateful these women came forward," Berke wrote in a statement. "I believe the investigation is in the right hands with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, the FBI, and the Department of Justice which will ensure that all facts are uncovered. As always, we will monitor and respond to any information so we maintain the trust of our residents."

The evidence would later be turned over to federal investigators to help bolster its case that ended with Logan admitting to the crimes.

Logan was arrested Thursday afternoon after entering a federal plea agreement — more than four years after he admittedly began raping women in his custody. He faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for two deprivation of rights charges. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston can bring additional state charges. He has declined to comment on the investigation.

 

2016 contact and a missing file

The 2015 victim took notes of her assault and went to the rape crisis center. She outlined the incident, took an exam and believed she was filing an official report, she told the Times Free Press in 2018.

Full Chattanooga Police Department statement

I’m replying to your email inquiry regarding Lieutenant Anthony Easter’s involvement in the Desmond Logan case. Due to open investigations and sensitive subject matter, I am limited in some capacity to provide full details. However, I hope the information I can provide helps answer the questions you have posed.

As you’re already aware, nurses at the Partnership’s Rape Crisis Center (RCC) typically provide forensic medical examinations in rape cases. Evidence is collected by them confidentially, stored, and protected for prosecution should the victim choose to file a report with law enforcement.

CPD Officers including those in SVU consistently work with the nurses and other staff at the RCC. Lt. Easter contacting that organization about any hold kit was within the scope of his job responsibilities as the commander of the Family Justice Center (FJC). Lieutenant Anthony Easter served as acting Lieutenant then Lieutenant of the FJC which includes the Special Victims Unit (SVU) from May 2016 through August 2018. Investigations of sexually oriented crimes and other related offenses fall in Lt. Easter’s area of responsibility.

As it relates to your questions about the 2016 inquiries into the hold kit…In August of that year, a CPD officer was transporting a suspect to jail. While in the patrol vehicle she stated that she had been raped by a CPD officer in July, 2015 and went to the RCC for an exam. That officer did exactly as he should and reported that information to his sergeant and the sergeant filed a report in Blue Team which is the CPD digital program for recording and maintaining records of complaints and investigations into officer misconduct. The Blue Team report was forwarded to then Captain Pedro Bacon (since retired) who was the commander of the CPD Internal Affairs Unit. At the time of the 2016 report of the 2015 incident, the officer’s name who was reported to have raped her was not known. It wasn’t until the victim came forward in 2018 and the subsequent Internal Affairs investigation into her allegations began that the 2015 incident and the identity of the officer (Desmond Logan) was discovered. It was also discovered by the CPD Internal Affairs Unit that the Blue Team report that was created in 2016 was no longer in the system. Pedro Bacon had retired by the time the current Internal Affairs Investigators along with the help of City Information & Technology personnel discovered the report was no longer in the online system. Bacon has not made himself available to CPD’s Internal Affairs Unit for interview.

Jumping to 2018 and revisiting that timeline, on the night of June 15, 2018, CPD was notified by the Hamilton County Sheriffs Office of allegations that a Chattanooga police officer had sexually assaulted a suspect he was transporting to jail. CPD immediately launched an Internal Affairs investigation and officer, Desmond Logan, was placed on administrative leave at that time. The District Attorney appointed HCSO to handle the criminal investigation.

CPD’s Internal Affairs Unit as well as Lt. Easter provided all data and information requested by the HCSO in order to assist in the criminal investigation into Logan’s actions after it began in 2018. Part of that assistance was Lt. Easter contacting the RCC via email to inquire about the whereabouts of the hold kit in question. Lt. Easter included other CPD personnel on that email thread including his supervisor (Assistant Chief Zac McCullough) as well as the HCSO lead investigator (Inv. Lockhart) in that correspondence. Even though the statute of limitations for reporting rape is 15 years, kits are only required by law to be held for three years. Since the kit from the 2015 assault was approaching its three-year mark, Lt. Easter inquired about its whereabouts in order to help HCSO locate it, again Lt. Easter included HCSO on the email correspondence.

To our knowledge, Lt. Easter’s actions were within the purview of his job responsibilities and there does not appear, based on the information you provided, to be a violation of any CPD policy.

In August, 2018, Easter moved to CPD’s Training Unit to serve as commander of that unit. That move is indicative of nothing. Lt. Easter’s new position was a result of promotions, vacancies, and attrition in the department. Moving officers to different units and areas is typical and constant at the Chattanooga Police Department.

However, she hadn't actually filed an official report, she would later learn. She had told her story but didn't ever file the appropriate report to begin an investigation. In 2016, after a subsequent arrest, she mentioned the rape to her arresting officer.

"That officer did exactly as he should and reported that information to his sergeant and the sergeant filed a report in Blue Team which is the [police department's] digital program for recording and maintaining records of complaints and investigations into officer misconduct," according to Myzal.

At that time, Easter contacted Partnership about the case.

Easter and Chattanooga police investigators were under the impression the complaint involved another officer.

Logan, who is black, did not tell the victim his real name. When the victim told police the name Logan gave her, it was that of a white officer.

The department would ultimately lose touch with the victim and the case stalled, according to Myzal. An attorney representing two of Logan's victims also contacted the 2015 victim to be involved in a lawsuit they were filing against the city. He ultimately lost touch with her as well and was unable to find her.

After the department case stalled, the victim's file went missing.

Two former Chattanooga Police Department leaders, Pedro Bacon and Edwin McPherson, are under investigation for their potential roles in suppressing evidence in the case. Investigators believe Bacon went into Blue Team and purged at least one complaint made against Logan. McPherson is being investigated for possibly having knowledge of the incident.

Bacon denied the claim. McPherson declined to comment.

"Pedro Bacon had retired by the time the current Internal Affairs Investigators along with the help of City Information & Technology personnel discovered the report was no longer in the online system," Myzal wrote in an email. "Bacon has not made himself available to [the department's] Internal Affairs Unit for interview."

He was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in June.

 

Desmond Logan investigation

Chattanooga police Chief David Roddy held a news conference on June 16, 2018, announcing one of his officers was under criminal and internal affairs investigation for sexual misconduct that had been reported to the sheriff's office. The police department recused itself of the criminal investigation, which was being handled by the sheriff's office.

Six days later, Easter (who was not a member of the internal affairs department) began contacting rape crisis center employees, again asking about two rape kits connected to Logan. He wrote to the employees that he had just recently learned a police officer may have been involved in the case, according to emails obtained by the Times Free Press.

The contact was within his official role at the department, according to Myzal, and with the knowledge of the sheriff's office investigators, one of whom was included on the emails.

Sheriff's office spokesman Matt Lea sent the following statement when asked why the Chattanooga Police Department remained involved in the criminal case after recusing itself.

"As earlier stated, Chattanooga Police investigators fully cooperated with the investigation by providing material and relevant items as requested," he wrote. "The types of information requested and provided to [the sheriff's office] involved internal police reports, personnel files, disciplinary reports and the retrieval of dispatch data."

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has said it believes there was no conflict of interest since the 2015 victim's rape kit was collected by a sheriff's office investigator.

Easter maintains he was working to help the investigation and not trying to hide evidence, Myzal said. His 2018 emails included other police department officials, and his 2016 request was within his normal job requirements.

The emails have been turned over to FBI investigators, according to a source.

Easter has since moved away from his role with the Family Justice Center.

"In August, 2018, Easter moved to [the police department's] Training Unit to serve as commander of that unit," Myzal wrote. "That move is indicative of nothing. Lt. Easter's new position was a result of promotions, vacancies, and attrition in the department. Moving officers to different units and areas is typical and constant at the Chattanooga Police Department."

Contact Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.

 

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