Another botched rape case: Baton Rouge woman drugged, sexually assaulted and photographed; no charges filed against rapist


Lyndsi Lambert

Lyndsi Lambert said she was convinced that in Sgt. Jacques Jackson's mind, her entire case was riding on smartphone photos.

If the device taken from the man that she accused last September of drugging and sexually assaulting her contained the sexually explicit pictures that she remembers him taking of her, there would be sufficient evidence to bring charges.

The pictures were critical to the case, because the sheriff's office's strategy was to charge the man with video voyeurism, a more straightforward crime to prove than sexual assault.

Lambert felt that Jackson, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office sergeant leading the investigation, was too focused on the photos and not enough on the potential for rape charges. Her hopes for a quick arrest were dashed, she said, when Jackson called several days after taking the man's phone to inform her that no photos of her from that night were on it.

Unless the man distributed the photos somewhere, she says Jackson told her, the police couldn't substantiate her claims.

The man told police he deleted the photos after Lambert's sister questioned him about them, and because they were "dark," according to the case file.

Lambert said she thought Jackson was too quick to accept that explanation. The man's statement confirmed that sexual pictures were taken, something Lambert said she would not have allowed.

She questioned how the photos could have been too dark if the only reason she knew they were taken was because she saw a flash through her closed eyelids. She questioned whether data recovery specialists could recover the deleted photos; Jackson assured her everything that could be done had been done. She questioned whether a device other than the iPhone had been used to take the pictures.

"We can't just take every device in his house," Jackson is heard telling her at a meeting in October she recorded.


In the Oct. 15 recording provided by Lambert, Jackson indicates he doesn't feel there's enough probable cause to arrest the man for rape, in part because of sexually charged text messages Lambert and the man exchanged earlier that day.

The night before the alleged rape, Lambert said, she and the man had oral sex; they had on one previous occasion had sexual intercourse. On the evening when they had oral sex, the man had choked her and spanked her hard enough to bruise her buttocks, she said. She sent him text messages the next day, the case file confirms, telling him she liked it and wanted to do it again.

She also texted him about plans they had made to go to Kinky Salon in New Orleans, which the case file describes as "a swingers club." (Kinky Salon's website specifically rejects that label, describing itself instead as "an inclusive sex-positive community" that hosts parties providing a "safe space for people of all persuasions to explore their sexuality without fear of judgment.")

Lambert said she had never attended Kinky Salon before, but discussed with the man the possibility that they would encounter group sex at the event. According to the case file, the man characterized that conversation differently, telling investigators that Lambert told him "she wanted to have several guys gang bang her." Lambert says she told Jackson that she never said that, but her denial is not included in the report.

Said Lambert of the case file: "I felt like the language used and the tone was really skewed against me. After I read the whole 38-page document, I just felt sick."

Lambert said she was forthright with police about the sexual texts and her prior sexual relations with the accused. Her sexual proclivities are not relevant to what she alleges happened at the apartment that night, she said. But the sheriff's office, she felt, looked at those text messages and the couple's sexual history as "equaling consent. ... Consent doesn't work that way," she said.

Leah Foster, clinical director of trauma recovery services for the New Orleans Family Justice Center, said consent is something that must be given "before and during each and every sexual encounter.

"Consent doesn't happen once and it's done," Foster said. "It is an ongoing conversation that needs to happen as each sexual encounter unfolds. Just because someone agreed to sex once doesn't mean they will agree again."

If the events of Sept. 25, 2014, unfolded as Lambert alleges, the incident would appear to fit the definition of "simple rape" under Louisiana statute 14:43. That law classifies as simple rape a forcible sex act "when the victim is incapable of resisting or of understanding the nature of the act by reason of a stupor or abnormal condition of mind produced by an intoxicating agent or any cause and the offender knew or should have known of the victim's incapacity."

Prior consensual sex with a rape suspect should have no bearing on whether charges are brought, a sheriff's office spokeswoman said. But it can make rape exam results less useful, compared to cases where the suspect is not known and DNA evidence can help identify them, or there is a question of whether or not any sex occurred.

It can also complicate efforts to prosecute, given the differing sexual attitudes of jurors. The key in these types of cases, said Michael Moore, president of the National District Attorneys Association, is to collect as much corroborating evidence as possible.

Investigators did find some other evidence in Lambert's case, but nothing that decisively resolved the conflicting accounts of what occurred in the man's apartment.

One witness who saw Lyndsi Lambert incapacitated at around midnight in the parking lot of the bar was her sister, Jana -- which Lambert says should be considered as evidence she was too drunk or drugged to consent.

The sheriff's office interviewed two employees at Lakeside Daiquiris & Grill, who said they remembered seeing Lambert and the man, according to the case file. They said Lambert appeared to be drunk or high when she arrived at the bar -- which she adamantly denies -- but otherwise confirmed a basic timeline of when the couple left and how much they drank.

The case file doesn't indicate whether the officer asked the employees about Lambert's condition when she left the bar that evening, but it does state they knew Lambert's date as a frequent patron at the bar.

The video surveillance at the bar was inoperable that night, the owner told police.

No one, Lambert says, has been able to provide a satisfactory answer to one key question: If no crime occurred, as the man told police, why did he insist that her sister pick her up at the bar parking lot, rather than at his apartment?


Despite the holes in the case, Lambert continued to press for charges. To her surprise, given their stated lack of confidence in the evidence, the sheriff's office wrote a warrant for the man's arrest for rape in October.

The warrant was delivered Oct. 21 to 19th Judicial District Court Judge Richard "Chip" Moore. He did not find probable cause and declined to sign it, according to the sheriff's office. Moore didn't return calls requesting comment for this story.

Lambert said the sheriff's office told her that once the judge had declined to sign the warrant, the investigation was pretty much over unless new evidence surfaced. So Lambert continued to push it forward on her own.

She shifted some of her attention to a civil suit she filed in family court Oct. 9, requesting a restraining order against the man and to stop him from sharing any pictures he might have.

In mid-February, after months of continuances, she expected to be subpoenaed for a deposition. Advised by a lawyer from Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center that anything she said could be used against her in any future court proceedings -- and fearing that if she lost the civil case, she'd have to pay for the man's legal and attorney fees -- she dropped the suit.

"Based on how everything else had gone up until this point," she said, "I had no reason to believe I was going to win this protective order."

Meanwhile, she continued to pursue her fight at the sheriff's office. Lambert says she contacted Internal Affairs and informed them of her intent to file a complaint against Jackson. She spoke out at a Take Back the Night rally, publicly criticizing her treatment by investigators. She brought her complaints to the Louisiana Inspector General's Office.

Each time she voiced her concerns, she said, the case seemed to take another step forward -- but then another step back. Based on her conversations with the sheriff's office, she said she was under the impression multiple times that her case had stalled or been closed, but as she continued to press officials, they would assure her it was active again.

For example, a few days after Lambert spoke out at Take Back the Night, Jackson got a search warrant to search the man's other electronic devices for photos, according to the case file -- despite him telling her a week earlier that wouldn't be possible. That search, which occurred a month after the sheriff's office's initial interview with the suspect, turned up empty.

"Why do victims who speak out suddenly get further into their investigation?" she asked. "Had I not spoken out, it would have just been case closed. Is it the responsibility of a victim to hold law enforcement accountable, to make sure that her rapist is charged? That's a heavy burden."


On Oct. 29, more than a week after the case was sent to the judge, Jackson -- who had opted not to send Lambert's bloodwork to the crime lab the day after the alleged rape -- arranged to have a hair sample from Lambert tested for date rape drugs, the case file shows.

Lambert refused to provide the sample, declining, she said, because her research indicated hair samples are typically used to test for repetitive drug use, not the presence of a date rape drug. Although denying drug use, Lambert said she was concerned Jackson was seeking evidence to discredit her.

Moreover, Lambert said she worried that if the test for a rape drug came back negative, a defense attorney could use that to discredit her story.

Dr. Randall Brown, a Baton Rouge forensic medical examiner who specializes in women's sexual assault cases, said that hair testing for date rape drugs is newer technology that is "not quite ready for widespread use." A single instance is difficult to detect, Brown said, unless there has been a "fairly large ingestion."



© Kathleen Flynn, Time Picayune
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office took Lyndsi Lambert's rape complaint on Sept. 26, 2014.

In February, after Lambert had been in contact with the Inspector General's office, she said, Major Bryan White of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office met with Lambert and informed her that her case had been sent to the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's office, which was pursuing it further.

Lambert walked away from that meeting believing that the DA's office was going to present her case to a grand jury. But Sue Bernie, the assistant district attorney handling the case, said that was a "miscommunication": There was never a plan to send it to a grand jury, which would be a very unusual step for a case where a judge had declined to sign an arrest warrant.

In Lambert's meeting with White, which she recorded, White acknowledged the sheriff's office made mistakes in its handling of the case, and promised more oversight for investigating officers.

"Some of the things that happened are inexcusable, you're correct," White says on the recording of the February meeting. "But with that being said, when it was found out that we obviously didn't do our due diligence, it's being done. The case is not over."

A vial of blood taken during Lambert's rape exam and stored for nearly five months was finally -- on Feb. 19 -- sent to the State Police crime lab for toxicology testing, according to the case file. The results came back negative.

Lambert says she wasn't surprised, because she knew there was a good chance any drugs had left her system by the time she was tested. But even so, when sheriff's deputies gave her the news, "as soon as I closed the door my knees hit the ground and I just started wailing," she said. "It was really hard."

As the investigation dragged on, Lambert said she became depressed and considered getting on anti-depressive medication. She was having trouble sleeping. She took time off from her job. She felt nauseous whenever she saw a sheriff's office car, she said. She moved out of her place, worried that the man knew where she lived.

In February, the investigation still languishing, Lambert contacted a | The Times-Picayune reporter and expressed her desire to share her story. She said she hoped the media attention would help other people who report sexual assaults and perhaps jump-start the investigation. But her hopes for an eventual arrest were dashed on April 30 when Lambert's case was closed -- this time, apparently, for good -- 216 days after she reported being drugged and raped.

The sheriff's office conceded that it made mistakes, but indicated an absence of supporting evidence is what made this case impossible to prosecute.

"From the evidence gathered from witness statements and lab results, detectives do not feel the outcome of the case would change (even if the investigation had been handled differently)," sheriff's office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said. "The facts of the case have been reviewed by a judge and additionally by the district attorney's office. Sufficient evidence was not present to warrant an arrest."

The man's attorney, Franz Borghardt, echoed the sheriff's office's sentiments in a statement.

"Having had the chance to review the case file, and all the discovery, it appears and it is our belief that someone made an allegation of a crime, the case was thoroughly investigated by the police, and ultimately a judge found no probable cause to merit an arrest warrant," he said. "This is the system working."

Lambert thinks the criminal case is now over, but she said she is far from finished. She wants to get involved in policy work related to sexual assault issues, and she's considering going to law school. Although the criminal justice system has drawn its own conclusion about her case, she feels that she was victimized twice.

"If I can't get my own rapist behind bars," she said, "maybe I could use my experience to help get other rapists behind bars."

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office recently transferred Jackson out of General Investigations, which typically handles sexual assault investigations, to a different division in the sheriff's office. Asked whether the transfer was a response to his handling of Lambert's case, Hicks said: "We transfer employees all the time depending on best fit and personnel need."

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