Former police officer’s trial set for June 25

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – The trial of a former Vidalia police officer accused of raping a Concordia Parish woman, then falsifying statements about the incident, is scheduled for June 25, said Assistant District Attorney Ronnie McMillin.

Rafael Cook, 24, was fired from the Vidalia Police Department two months after the Jan. 16, 2000, incident, following an investigation by the Louisiana State Police.

Cook, who is now living in Bossier City, is charged with simple rape, malfeasance in office and false swearing for the purpose of violating public health or safety.

A telephone listing could not be found for Cook, and his attorney, Bobby Manning of Monroe, declined to comment or to say how Cook could be reached Tuesday.

Cook’s alleged victim, Sandra Taylor, recently said she understood that the rape charge against Cook had been dropped.

But McMillin said the Seventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office still plans to prosecute Cook on all three charges unless Taylor decides to drop the rape charge. And that is something Taylor has said she will not do.

&uot;He’s walking around free now, but I’m still a nervous wreck,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;As long as I’m still jumping every time I&160;hear a noise outside my home, I’m not free. … I want to see justice done.&uot;

A State Police investigation revealed that on Jan. 16, 2000, Cook drove Taylor, who had been released on bond after her arrest on a charge of driving while intoxicated, from the Concordia Parish Jail to her home.

After arriving at the woman’s home, Cook then had sexual intercourse with the woman, but no force was involved, said Senior Trooper Steve Childers.

Cook is being charged with false swearing and malfeasance in office because he allegedly gave false statements regarding the incident to Police Chief Billy Hammers and then-investigator Bobby Sheppard during the investigation.

As a result, the Vidalia Board of Aldermen on March 14, 2000, fired Cook, who had been working for the department for just over one year, for falsifying reports.

The last thing Taylor clearly remembers about the night of Jan. 16 is drinking one glass of white wine at a Natchez bar.

She believes that someone at the bar slipped what is commonly known as a &uot;date rape drug&uot; into her drink, which caused her to lose most memories of that night and distorted her vision for days afterward.

Such symptoms could be consistent with a date rape drug, and McMillin said he wishes his office could find the person who allegedly slipped Taylor the drug. But it would be almost impossible to find out who that was, McMillin said.

Taylor said she can only remember a few parts of that night – being booked at the Vidalia Police Department on a driving while intoxicated charge, sitting in the Concordia Parish Jail and, finally, getting into Cook’s patrol car.

Soon after the incident, the Vidalia Police Department changed its policies on transporting people who have bonded out of jail.

&uot;First, it has to be an emergency situation for someone to transport someone outside the city limits,&uot; Hammers said Tuesday.

&uot;And even if it is a desperate situation, they still would have to get their supervisor’s permission before they took someone outside the city limits,&uot; he said.

Taylor said she believes that after Cook took her home, he had sex with her when she was too incapacitated to give consent.

She said that first dawned on her when she woke up with pain in her lower abdomen and when Cook came to her home to get his wallet on Jan. 17.

&uot;I just began to shake and couldn’t stop,&uot;&160;Taylor said. &uot;I&160;knew what had happened.&uot;

Taylor said a videotape of her booking at the Vidalia Police Department will show she was too drugged to fully cooperate with officers’ directions, much less give consent.

But McMillin refused to allow the media to view a videotape of Taylor’s booking to see whether she appeared drunk or drugged. To do so before showing the tape to Taylor, he said, would be unfair to her.

McMillin now wants to meet with Taylor and her attorney to discuss the particulars of the case and bring them up to date on its progress. &uot;I understand this has been a traumatic experience for Ms. Taylor,&uot; McMillin said. &uot;And we’ll do everything we can to consult with her in this case.&uot;