Aug. 19, 2005
St. Paul rape case dropped against cop
Minneapolis officer picked in photo lineup, but no DNA match; no charges filed
Prosecutors said Thursday they have insufficient evidence to file charges against a Minneapolis police officer accused of raping a woman, leading those on both sides of the case — the woman and the officer — to say no matter the outcome their lives have been irrevocably damaged.
None of the DNA evidence from the woman's St. Paul home, where she said the rape occurred last February, matched the DNA profile of the suspect, David Michael Hansen, 28, the Ramsey County attorney's office said.
"A serious crime was committed," said Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner. "We have no reason to disbelieve the victim when she says that she was raped. We simply don't have sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."
Hansen's attorney, Fred Bruno, said Hansen is innocent — he didn't know the woman, nor did he have any contact with her, he said.
"He's pleased that his innocence has been shown and looks forward to moving on with the rest of his life, if he can," Bruno said. "These accusations last a lifetime. Not only was he falsely accused, but his reputation was destroyed by so publicly outing him during the investigation."
A 27-year-old woman told police a man she had seen working out at her gym approached her Feb. 11 outside the Highland Park Life Time Fitness center and asked for a ride to his car. Once inside her vehicle, the man said he had a gun and directed her to drive to her house in the area of Randolph and Snelling avenues, where he raped her, she said.
After the woman identified Hansen from a photo lineup, he was arrested Feb. 16 on suspicion of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping.
The photo came from a databank of Life Time Fitness members, Bruno said, a method he has questioned. St. Paul police spokesman Paul Schnell said the lineup was credible, given the sheer volume of photographs the woman reviewed — about 1,400, he said.
Hansen, who has been a Minneapolis police officer for nearly three years, wasn't on duty when the alleged incident occurred.
The woman, whose name hasn't been released, issued a statement Thursday through St. Paul police, saying, "Ever since this happened, I have felt unsafe.
"I know there will be those who will not believe me as they learn how this terrible ordeal unfolded. In the end, there is nothing more anyone can say to make me feel worse than I already do."
When Hansen was released from jail Feb. 18, authorities said more investigation, including laboratory tests, was needed. Final testing at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab was completed this month, prosecutors said.
The county attorney's office said DNA found didn't match Hansen's DNA, but also "there was no evidence that leads to another suspect," Schnell said.
Hansen has been on paid administrative leave from the Minneapolis Police Department since his arrest.
Now, with the criminal investigation over, Minneapolis police will begin an internal investigation into the woman's allegations, during which time Hansen will remain on paid leave, said Minneapolis police spokesman Ron Reier. The internal investigation will seek to determine whether he violated police policy, Reier said.
"The fact is, an officer has been arrested," Reier said. "Officers, whether we want to be or not, are held to higher standards."
Bruno said he believes Hansen will be cleared in the internal investigation and says Hansen is eager to get back to work.
"He was completely credible from day one," Bruno said. "Anyone who knows the guy would have told you that. It was just a nightmare, being accused of something he didn't do."
Hansen's accuser said she prays her case doesn't discourage rape victims from coming forward.
"I realize now that the most difficult aspect of making a report is the personal scrutiny that victims face," she said in her statement. "… To (victims), I say, never give up hope and stay strong."
Staff writer Beth Silver contributed to this story. Mara H. Gottfried covers St. Paul public safety. She can be reached at email@example.com or 651-228-5262.
|Wrongfully Convicted Cops