Ex-Cop Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting Teen Girl Whose Rape He Was Investigating

The New Orleans senior police officer groomed, kidnapped and sexually abused a 15-year-old rape survivor he was supposed to be helping.

Ex-Cop Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting Teen Girl Whose Rape He Was Investigating
Photo:St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office

In federal court earlier this month, a former New Orleans police officer pleaded guilty to depriving a teenage rape survivor of her “right to bodily integrity” when he kidnapped and sexually assaulted her in September 2020.

On Nov. 16, Rodney Vicknair, 55, asserted in a plea bargain that he was acting “under the color of law” when he molested a 15-year-old girl whose rape case he had been investigating. According to court reports, Vicknair first met the child when he responded to a sexual assault report she filed earlier in 2020, when she was 14 years old. The senior police officer drove the girl and her mother to get a forensic rape kit done at the local children’s hospital.

Prosecutors allege Vicknair, who was 53 at the time, proceeded to groom and sexually harass her, visiting her multiple times unannounced at her home while in uniform for the next four months. Under the guise of investigating her case, he spoke with the victim on the phone and exchanged messages with her over Snapchat, offering to be her friend and mentor. Prosecutors say Vicknair “requested and received sexually explicit photographs of [the victim],” kept the photos on his phone and touched her breast under her shirt and her butt over her clothes in separate incidents.

When Vicknair came to the girl’s house on Sept. 23, 2020, she told police he asked her to get in the passenger seat of his truck. The prosecution, via court documents, say Vicknair locked the doors so that she couldn’t leave, leaned over her and confined her against her will. He then “intentionally touched her genitals under her clothing” without her consent.

A few days later, when he was arrested and interviewed by police about the incident, Vicknair said he’d never touched the victim sexually, but admitted that he’d told the child she had “a nice body” and a “nice ass.”

Ultimately, when faced with a maximum sentence of life in prison, he changed his plea to guilty, and the parties agreed to a seven year sentence. The court will ultimately sentence him in March. Prior to his arrest, the Times-Picayune reports Vicknair had been a police officer for 13 years and an EMT for 19 years before that. He’d also mentored recruits coming out of the academy.

Vicknair is not the only NOPD officer being accused of sexual assault; Gerry Paul is currently being investigated after a crime scene technician alleged he raped her while on a date. And rape survivors in New Orleans are already waiting for hours for police to respond because of NOPD staffing shortages, as Jezebel previously reported. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway—law enforcement should be supporting sexual assault survivors when they respond to their claims, not re-assaulting them and compounding their trauma.

“The defendant’s job was to protect a child who was a victim of sexual assault, but instead he exploited her vulnerabilities and abused his position of power to carry out his own sexual assault of the victim,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “Law enforcement officials who sexually assault children are not above the law.”

The teen’s mother filed a civil lawsuit against Vicknair, which is set to go to trial in April.

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