Longform

BEAT COP

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"I know," Taylor replied.
"At least with it coming forward at this point in time, there is still something left to save," Stack continued.

"But everyone will be so mad at me," Taylor said.
Rowe completed the investigation in March, after which a preliminary complaint against Alex Woods Jr. was registered with the Denver District Attorney's office.

"I used the same standard I use in every case," says Chief Deputy District Attorney Diane Balkin, who filed the case against Woods, charging him with third-degree misdemeanor assault. "In other words, could the case be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? We had to factor in that he's a police officer, and that means something to a jury--they perceive the barrier between us and them, and then there's that protective image: You're a child, you get lost, you go to the station and they feed you ice cream. Along with the uniform comes credibility."

The file went to Sheila Rappaport of the DA's Domestic Violence Unit. While Rappaport began building her case, Alex Woods was back on the street in District 4, after a month spent clerking during the Internal Affairs investigation.

"They took his gun away. Big deal," says Taylor. "He owns thirty guns. If he ever wants to kill me, he can."

Every time she passed a Denver police cruiser, she got a sinking feeling. She swapped cars with her father so that she'd feel safer. "Alex's mom wrote me a letter saying she couldn't believe I had done this to her son," Taylor says. "It seemed like nobody doubted what had happened, but everyone was pissed at me for doing anything about it."

They weren't crazy about her attorney, either. "Those first few weeks I'd get a call every couple of days saying something like, `You're being threatened,' `I hear your name at District 4,' `Is it true Mary's paying you by letting you screw her?,' `Watch your back,'" says Moss. "The first couple of weeks, I slept a lot of different places. Anywhere but home."

When he wasn't sleeping, he pursued leads and passed them to Sheila Rappaport. Much of what he found proved useless; witnesses such as Laura Lanphier and Michelle Newman who could testify to Woods's temper were deemed to be too far afield from the facts of the case.

Both Moss and Rappaport were excited when Stacy Graft, Woods's high-school sweetheart, appeared, offering to tell the story of how Woods had beaten and choked her seven years ago.

"Stacy felt guilty for not reporting it back then--that if she had, this might not have happened to Mary or to Alex," Rappaport says. "But the judge ruled it was too attenuated--Alex had been a senior in high school when it happened."

By the time Woods went to trial in May, just a few of Taylor's friends were left to describe her injuries. Clarry testified, although she now says she feels "manipulated" by Taylor. Tammy Peterson found her day in court a humiliating experience.

"Alex's lawyer looked down on us because of where we work," she says. "He tried to make it sound like Mary was nuts and I was out to get this guy. But I was pretty `fuck-you' to him. I know the symptoms. Handprints around your neck is not being kicked by a horse, and it made me wonder: If a cop does this to someone he supposedly loves, how does he treat common people?"

Police who might have shed some light on this subject were silent. Those who'd been at the December 14 party remembered nothing. "That part wasn't so surprising," says Rappaport. "A lot of people had already left, the TV was on, music was on, they may not have heard anything."

Nevertheless, Rappaport began her closing arguments by displaying a large piece of poster board on which were written the words "Conspiracy of Silence." "I wouldn't want to use the word `coverup,'" she says. "More, it was a minimization of what people saw. That bothers me, yes. And there is no doubt in my mind that Alex knew about the internal investigation even before Mary did."

And then there was the fact that the tape of the 911 call made to Woods's house on December 14, during which the operator on duty talked to Woods about whether to send a car out, was found to be unintelligible. "You could not make out either voice," Rappaport says, "even though the tapes of the calls immediately before and after were perfectly clear. It was a sort of gurgling noise. We have never been able to determine what happened."

But Taylor had her tapes, too, and those, Rappaport says, "were very important to winning this case. He basically said he hit her. And his voice--he's a man out of control."

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Robin Chotzinoff
Contact: Robin Chotzinoff