C.S. aka N.Q. was charged with attempted rape, aggravated assault and numerous other charges. Two previous attorneys had bowed out of representation. Zac Shaffer became involved in the case merely two months before the trial and scrambled to put together a competent defense. The facts were challenging.
During November 2010 the city was on high alert because of the Kensington Strangler. Two women had already been strangled to death that month. They were both white prostitutes with drug problems. Police presence was increased. Homicide was investigating.
On the night of the 28th, a frantic 911 call was taken at 10:42 PM describing a house fire. Shortly thereafter a woman called reporting someone screaming in her backyard. A man was running away from the scene wearing a grey hoodie and a black hat. Hispanic male, 5’8”. Officers arrived and took information from the victim, a white prostitute with a drug problem. She gave them a weight and height, plus the addition of a black and yellow jacket. Additional police vehicles were sent to the area after she described how the attacker had tried to remove her pants and chocked her while holding a box cutter to her throat.
A block and a half away from the incident and mere minutes after, C.S. was stopped by police. He was wearing a grey hoodie and held a black and yellow jacket in his hands. After five minutes they let him leave. Officers may have had the full “flash” information from the 911 call because 11:00 PM was written down as the time of occurrence on their pedestrian stop form. The other potential was that they wrote down the wrong time and had not received the flash at all. Either way, C.S. appeared calm and composed during his encounter with the police and even produced his identification card.
During this entire incident there were at least three patrol cars in the area looking for the attacker. Police even had a helicopter with thermal imaging technology looking for the man. Despite all the efforts, no arrests were made that evening.
The next day homicide had a detective pick up and interview the victim. They showed her several photo arrays of individuals that they thought might have been the Kensington Strangler. While pulling out the picture of C.S. to put into a separate photo array, which clearly showed his neck tattoo, the victim saw it by itself and exclaimed “that’s him!” C.S. was arrested.
C.S. had a line-up cancelled because he grew his hair out and had a beard. At the second line-up he was identified immediately by the victim. A preliminary hearing was held. Two attorneys left the case. Motions were heard and Mr. Shaffer finally got the case to trial.
During testimony, the defense relentlessly attacked the notion that C.S. was the attacker. The victim’s drug use that night was brought out repeatedly. The evolving description of the attacker included a prominent neck tattoo only after the detectives showed her a single photograph. The height at the line-up of C.S. being listed at 5’5. The fact that police had stopped C.S. and let him go that same evening likely after officers received additional flash. This is all in addition to multiple other options that would make this already long update three times its size.
After six days in court, a verdict was delivered. With his family behind C.S. and his attorney by his side, the sweetest two-word phrase in the English language was repeated for every charge: “Not Guilty.” — at Criminal Justice Center.
- On October 3, 2014