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Why an Arizona detective had sex with a ‘victim’ but faced no charges

Kaplan interview
Posted at 10:00 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-21 12:55:06-05

PHOENIX — Newly-released case reports and recorded interviews help explain why a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office detective was not criminally charged after having sex with the woman listed as the "victim" in a case he was actively investigating.

ABC15 obtained the records more than a year after making a public record request to MCSO related to the October 2020 sexual assault investigation of then-Detective Gary Kaplan.

One video showed Kaplan in an MCSO interview room answering an investigator's questions. During that three-hour interview, the investigators also told Kaplan he was under arrest and put him in handcuffs.

“You told me there’s an allegation of rape,” Kaplan told the investigator. “I want to tell you everything.”

Kaplan was the case agent assigned to a 50-year-old woman’s July 2020 domestic violence report that her boyfriend threatened her with a gun.

Just days into the domestic violence investigation, text messages show Kaplan offered the woman a ride home from court after she filed an order of protection. After dropping her off, he texted advice not to “date crazy men” and asks to come to her home to meet her dog.

In a recorded interview with MCSO internal affairs investigators, the woman said Kaplan sat on her couch, pet her dog, then made sexual advances.

“I've never had to have sex with somebody that I didn't want to,” she said. “That was like the weirdest thing.”

The domestic violence victim told investigators Kaplan arrived at her house with his bulletproof vest on. His timecard shows he was on the clock, according to MCSO reports.

“He was taking stuff off,” she told investigators, as she explained what she thought that day. “Oh my God, what's happening,” she said. “I felt like I said ‘no,’ but I didn't want to do it, but I didn't know I was gonna.”

Detective Kaplan admitted to investigators the visit ended in sex, but he said it was consensual. He told them he and the woman had two sexual encounters, the second during an August visit to the woman’s home while the domestic violence case was ongoing.

“She took my clothes off — my pants, my boxers, my shirt stayed on,” Kaplan described. “She gave me oral sex, then we had sex, and then I left shortly after.”

“He was just so brazen about it,” the woman told investigators. “He got dressed and said, 'You can take this off your bucket list.'”

It was the boyfriend from the domestic violence case who later discovered dozens of text messages between Kaplan and the woman, according to MCSO investigative reports.

Concerned how the relationship could affect Kaplan’s decisions in the domestic violence case, he told an MCSO investigator by phone that Kaplan and the woman had sex, and he said it may have been rape.

“There's no rape,” Kaplan said. “I never threatened on the phone, in voice, in person to her or anyone else. I never forced her to do anything.”

The county attorney’s office ultimately declined to file domestic violence charges against the woman’s boyfriend.

The woman later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Kaplan and MCSO alleging battery, negligent training and supervision, and violations of the 14th Amendment. While the woman is named in the lawsuit, ABC15 is not using her name because it is our policy not to name alleged sexual assault victims without their permission.

In court documents, lawyers for the woman said she had a “history of abuse,” and Kaplan took advantage of it. She had “no interest in Kaplan” and “he had used his authority” and the fact that he was investigating a crime where she was the victim to “befriend her, gain access to her home, and then assault her,” according to one court filing.

Investigators found the woman told multiple people that the detective raped her, and she said she used cotton swabs to try to preserve evidence.

“Does that sound wrong what he did?” she asked investigators during the recorded interview.

They replied, “Yes. Absolutely. Extremely.”

ABC15 discussed Kaplan’s case and other police sexual misconduct cases with Gary Nelson, a retired Scottsdale police sergeant and a clinical therapist.

“It just makes my skin crawl,” Nelson said.

He compares the police–citizen relationship to that of teacher and student or clergy and parishioner. He said the power imbalance may be greatest when it comes to a police officer.

ABC15 also spoke to Tasha Menaker with the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

“It blurs the lines in terms of whether consent is possible,” Menaker said. “Those people, that they have power over, are less likely to be believed when they come forward to report that sexual assault has happened.”

Arizona has a state law prohibiting unlawful sexual conduct by a peace officer. It says it is a felony for an officer to knowingly have sexual contact — even consensual sex — with the subject of an investigation or a person in their custody.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Kaplan under that law because the woman was not a suspect in Kaplan's case. It’s unclear why the law never extended the same protection to victims in active cases.

There’s no indication whether the county attorney looked at whether regular sexual crime laws would apply in Kaplan’s situation. Case records show MCAO prosecutors would reconsider the case if more victims came forward.

Advocates for sexual abuse survivors want to make sure everyone knows it’s OK to say no to all unwanted sexual advances.

“It's always okay to maintain and assert your boundaries,” Menaker said. “If there's been a situation where someone did not feel comfortable to say no, that doesn't always mean that there was consent.”

Kaplan retired from MCSO in 2021 in lieu of being fired for conduct unbecoming an officer and dishonesty.

The internal investigation did “not sustain” a sexual assault allegation. The report said the woman exchanged hundreds of text messages with Kaplan, and while she could have been put in a “place of submission” she had denied Kaplan used physical force.

Kaplan also relinquished his peace officer certification, so he can’t work as an officer again. But he remains a free man.

Earlier this year, Kaplan claimed in lawsuit documents the woman “was a willing participant and even the aggressor in the sexual interaction and texting,” and there was "not conduct...motivated by an evil intent.”

Both Kaplan and MCSO declined to comment for this story.