A criminal investigation is pending into the actions of an APD officer accused of leaking information about a sexual assault case. That officer has been suspended indefinitely. We spoke to a local defense attorney about the chances of this officer actually being prosecuted.
Interim Chief Brian Manley states in a memo that officer Carlos Mayfield tainted the investigation and compromised the sex assault case. Officer Mayfield has ten days to appeal.
The Austin Police Department released a nine-page memo accusing Officer Carlos Mayfield of violating at least five policies. This is after he admitted to investigators that he read from and revealed specific confidential details of a sexual assault report to the suspect and his mother.
"The question is, could he be criminally prosecuted for this? I think it might be a little bit of an uphill battle to prosecute him for a crime. Obviously a policy matter and a personnel matter is different than prosecuting him for a crime," says Sam Bassett, defense attorney.
It stems from a sexual assault reported on November 18, 2016. That day Officer Mayfield received a call from an ex-girlfriend wanting him to look up allegations made against her son. He ultimately disclosed confidential details such as no rape kit was performed on the victim.
"I think when information is released prematurely, or outside of the investigation before it's complete, witnesses could change their mind or be intimidated. Evidence could be hidden. It's a big advantage to the defendant to know kind of what the police have before the defendant is interviewed," says Bassett.
The suspect reportedly taunted the victim through texts stating, "If I raped you why didn't you go to the hospital and get a rape kit done on you?"' Another text said, "The police report told me exactly what happened." The Texas Advocacy Project can't speak specifically on the case but wants people to know the importance of protecting the confidentiality of survivors.
"The opportunity for someone to retaliate and intimidate a victim is so high and dangerous for them. There's so many choices that are taken from them, if they have been assaulted or if they have been harmed, that we as a society should not take more choices from them. It's just absolutely revictimizing survivors," says Heather Bellino, executive director, Texas Advocacy Project.
APD's Special Investigations Unit has launched a criminal investigation. That includes two possible violations: Interference with Public Duties which is a misdemeanor and Misuse of Official Information which is a 3rd degree felony.
"Misuse of Official Information, that seems to primarily be oriented toward somebody who's using it for a monetary advantage. Or to gain an advantage in a transaction, a real estate transaction or something like that. I'm not sure if that fits here but obviously the district attorney's office has a discretion to decide."
In February, the Travis County DA's Office dropped the sexual assault charge for a lessor offense because they believed Officer Mayfield's actions compromised the case. If you are a survivor and have any questions, the Texas Advocacy Project encourages you to call 1-800-374-HOPE.