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Rape kit task force members engage in heated confrontation

Tempers flared during a heated exchange Thursday between Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and a rape survivor after a meeting of a task force that is working to make recommendations for the handling of rape kits in Oklahoma.

The confrontation centered on a scathing news release Danielle Tudor issued earlier this month criticizing Attorney General Mike Hunter. She complained of a lack of support and enforcement from his office related to efforts to conduct a statewide audit of untested rape kits.

"You're not honest," Prater told fellow task force member Tudor after a meeting of the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Task Force. "Your press release was not honest."

Tudor responded to Prater: "You have been very, very, very rude in your manner and how you've addressed it."

At the meeting Thursday was AG candidate Gentner Drummond, who also has been critical of Hunter on the rape kit audit issue.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed an executive order in April 2017 directing law enforcement agencies to report their number of untested rape kits. She created the task force to make recommendations based on the results of the statewide audit. A total of 312 law enforcement agencies in the state reported 7,270 untested rape kits, but close to 120 agencies did not respond.

Tudor, the only member of the task force identified as a rape survivor, has criticized Hunter for not using his resources to enforce the audit. She said his “silence and lack of action or support have spoken volumes.”

In response, Hunter said earlier this month that his office supports the mission of the task force and that Tudor "seems not to fully understand the role of the attorney general's office on the task force."

The AG's chief of the Victims Services Unit serves as chairwoman of the task force and acts in an administrative function. Hunter has said his office has no other roles or responsibilities in enforcing compliance from the law enforcement agencies.

“The governor's task force has no subpoena power, no investigative authority and no ability to withhold federal funds from law enforcement agencies," Hunter wrote in a statement.

“Further, the attorney general's office does not and never has had the authority to enforce executive orders from the governor's office."

On Thursday, Prater told Tudor the news release was "incredibly unfair and dishonest." He accused Tudor of having "ulterior motives," saying "looks like a political deal to me."

“This task force is working very, very hard to try to get some answers to the questions about why these kits aren't tested," Prater said. "We're trying to be honest about it and open about it and determine what the problem is and how we move forward and you attack during the middle of the task force when our work is not even near complete. That was wrong, and it's a lie. That's all I have to say to you."

Tudor responded by saying that Prater didn't want to hear what she had to say.

Prater replied: “I don't need to hear anything from you because you sat there quietly two task force meetings ago and said nothing to anyone and then you chose to go and stab everyone in the back with your press release."

Tudor said this started because Hunter did not respond to requests to meet with her.

“The only avenue I have for people to even know what's going on is the media,” she said. “That's the only thing I have to be able to get that word out there.”

Tudor also told Prater she reached out to his office “on several occasions” to have conversations but got no response.

Prater said he was unaware Tudor had tried to contact him and offered his cellphone number.

At the end of the conversation, Prater told Tudor “we are not on the opposite sides of this.”

“I disagree with what you did, but we can put that aside and we can work together, and I'm happy to do it. I'll give you my cellphone number to make sure that when you call someone to meet with me, you're ringing my phone.”

Several media outlets recorded part of the exchange.

Afterward, an emotional and teary-eyed Tudor told The Oklahoman: "I wish I could send that video to every (district attorney) in Oregon. … He knows better. As a DA, he knows better. You don't talk to someone like that. You just don't.”

Tudor has helped to champion rape kit reform efforts in Oregon where she used to live. She said Prater is entitled to his opinion, but the way he expressed himself was "egregious" and "disrespectful," especially given his position.

Some of Tudor's frustrations with the Attorney General's Office stemmed from an email she said the chairwoman of the task force sent in April telling her it was “not appropriate or necessary” for task force members to contact nonresponsive law enforcement agencies and asking Tudor to “please refrain from sending information to reporters or responding to their inquiries about the SAFE Task Force's work without clearing it through our office.”

"It felt very demoralizing that here you are telling a rape survivor they're being inappropriate, when actually it's their advocacy to keep another victim from experiencing the same things they did," Tudor said.

Melissa Blanton, the chairwoman of the task force, said earlier this month that she never intended for Tudor to feel singled out or discouraged from talking about her story.

"Our office, and all the work that I've ever done in the past with the criminal justice system, working with victims, is to prevent victims from feeling that way and so that is very unfortunate," Blanton said. " ... We don't in any way want to discourage victims to talk about their situations, to express how they feel, how they're treated, and we don't want anything like this to prevent future victims from speaking out about what has happened to them."

Drummond, a Republican candidate for attorney general, spoke to the media after Thursday's meeting.

"Clearly this is a passionate issue," he said. "There's obviously differences of opinions. I think what is missing is leadership, and when I'm the attorney general, I will provide leadership. I will ensure there's funding."

He and Hunter will be on the primary election ballot June 26 with a third GOP candidate, Angela Bonilla.

The task force plans to meet again June 25. The group has just over two weeks left before it must make its final recommendations to the governor and state legislative leaders.

Related Photos
From left: David Prater and Danielle Tudor [The Oklahoman archives]

From left: David Prater and Danielle Tudor [The Oklahoman archives]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2f6f262280c910ab6c136ed18a13b36b.jpg" alt="Photo - From left: David Prater and Danielle Tudor [The Oklahoman archives]" title="From left: David Prater and Danielle Tudor [The Oklahoman archives]"><figcaption>From left: David Prater and Danielle Tudor [The Oklahoman archives]</figcaption></figure>
Darla Slipke

Darla Slipke is an enterprise reporter for The Oklahoman. She is a native of Bristol, Conn., and a graduate of the University of Kansas. Slipke worked for newspapers in Kansas, Connecticut,... Read more ›

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