DALLAS - An attorney is apologizing for spreading allegations that a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper sexually assaulted a woman during a traffic stop and arrest in North Texas. The apology came hours after DPS released two hours of the trooper's body camera video.
Around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, a state trooper pulled over 37-year-old Sherita Dixon-Cole on suspicion of drunk driving. She told the trooper she was coming from Downtown Dallas and was heading to her fiance's house in Waxahachie. She claimed she only had one drink.
During a field sobriety test, the trooper poured out two bottles of alcohol he found in her back seat. He places her under arrest and asked her to sit in the front seat of his patrol vehicle.
That's the point when Cole said the trooper offered to let her go in return for sexual favors. However, the exchange is never heard in the body camera video.
Cole also accused the officer of fondling, groping and sexually assaulting her on the way to jail. Those claims were also not supported by the video.
DPS responded to the accusations late Tuesday night by releasing the video in full. The only parts that were blurred or rendered inaudible were those where personal identification information is shared. That information is considered confidential by a state statute, DPS said.
"The Department is appalled that anyone would make such a despicable, slanderous and false accusation against a peace officer who willingly risks his life every day to protect and serve the public," the department said.
"That video clearly shows the world that this trooper conducted himself beyond reproach," said Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson. "Yet, he still was subject do a very malicious public persecution despite that."
Not only was the trooper falsely accused identified by name in social media posts, but another unrelated Waco trooper with the same last name was targeted by people believing Cole's claims. His attorney says he's endured "substantial harassment and threats" and even had to make a "request for protection."
Cole's attorney apologized early Wednesday morning.
"It is deeply troubling when innocent parties are falsely accused and I am truly sorry for any trouble these claims may have caused," Merritt wrote on Facebook.
Merritt said he does not believe the video from DPS was edited or tampered with in any way. He watched it in full and does believe the trooper acted professionally during the stop and the arrest. Merritt declined to go on camera about his apology even though he actively seeks out media coverage with complaints about police.
The false allegations spread worldwide when civil rights activist Shaun King, who has nearly 3 million followers on social media, posted on Twitter "claiming these are the facts" about the North Texas woman being sexually assaulted by the trooper during a DWI arrest.
Since the body cam's release, King removed his initial post making the false accusation. He posted a long response on Twitter after reviewing the body cam video saying, "Sherita Dixon-Cole is not a victim. She victimized us. She victimized the man she falsely accused, and she victimized those who stood up for her believing that she had experienced the worst crimes." However, King did not apologize for anything.
The Ellis County District Attorney says he is disgusted by the false claims made against the DPS trooper and adds that Cole could face additional criminal charges for making a false report.