Officer fired after alleging 2 colleagues assaulted her
By LEANORA MINAI, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- An officer with the St. Petersburg Police Department was fired this week after accusing two fellow officers of raping her nearly seven months ago.
Brie Bicknell, 24, was dismissed Thursday after police administrators said she was "not able to perform the duties of a police officer." A psychiatrist evaluated her fitness for duty and told administrators she used poor judgment the night two officers took turns having sex with her while she was intoxicated.
In an interview Friday, Bicknell said she had sex with Officers Chris Leconte, 26, and Luis Rivera-Rivera, 25, after drinking at a St. Petersburg bar on Dec. 3, 2001. But she said she was taken advantage of and wonders whether someone slipped her a drug.
Bicknell said she was intoxicated. Still, she doesn't believe that the alcohol alone accounted for her condition that night.
"I will go to my grave believing that I was drugged because that was not me that night," Bicknell said Friday.
Police Chief Chuck Harmon and Assistant Chief Dave DeKay stand by their decision to terminate Bicknell. At the time of the sexual encounter, they said, Bicknell was a probationary officer, and as such, can be fired without cause.
"I can't support an officer who's not fit to be an officer," said Harmon, who added that he was following the psychiatrist's report. "I can't make a place for her if she's not fit to serve."
He added, "The conduct of all of the officers involved in this concerns me."
After police conducted a criminal investigation, prosecutors declined to pursue a case against the officers. An internal affairs investigation of Leconte and Rivera-Rivera continues.
During both investigations, the officers, who couldn't be reached for comment Friday, said they had consensual sex with Bicknell. They have remained on the force, performing their normal duties.
"If these two officers are allowed to stay on the street after this event, then Brie Bicknell should be offered the same opportunity," said Bicknell's attorney, Fred Carrington, who wants an independent investigation and plans to sue. "You have disparate treatment here."
Police reports, including transcripts of interviews with the officers, gave the following account of what happened Dec. 3, 2001:
Bicknell, who says she was 11 days away from becoming a vested officer, was at home on her computer when Leconte called and asked her to meet him and others at the Sports Bar and Grill, 1162 94th Ave. N.
Leconte and Bicknell knew each other from the patrol squad and had been out together socially in the months before the incident. Before that night, Bicknell said she had met Rivera-Rivera only once.
At the bar, Bicknell ordered an amaretto sour and two shots of Goldschlager cinnamon schnapps, a 97 proof alcohol. Within 40 minutes, Bicknell consumed the drinks. She said she also kissed Leconte and Rivera-Rivera at the bar.
Bicknell said she told the officers she was too intoxicated to drive. The officers got in Leconte's 1991 Mustang. Leconte drove to his apartment, where they picked up a pornographic video, a bottle of tequila and condoms. Bicknell said she didn't know they had brought condoms.
Bicknell said she blacked out and had no control over herself at Rivera-Rivera's apartment.
There, she said, the officers performed oral sex on her and had sexual intercourse with her.
"I just felt like I couldn't do anything but lay there," said Bicknell, who said her memory of that night is fuzzy. "I just felt like a rag doll."
Rivera-Rivera and Leconte say Bicknell pulled her pants down and was willing to have sex.
"Rivera has sex with her and then I started having sex with her," Leconte told investigators.
"We're just all having a good time," Rivera-Rivera told investigators.
The next morning, Leconte drove her to her car, which was still at the bar.
Bicknell said that during the ride, she told Leconte not to tell anyone at the police station.
"I didn't want it getting around the Police Department that anybody could sleep with me, that I'm easy," Bicknell said.
A day later, on Dec. 4, she went to Largo Medical Center and reported the incident with her sister and mother, Betsy Bicknell. Largo and St. Petersburg police responded and took Bicknell's statement. According to a St. Petersburg police evidence report, Bicknell had injuries on both arms, her left knee and right thigh.
"I felt that they really didn't give two hoots about my daughter or the fact that she was alternating from sobbing to being coherent to gagging," said Mrs. Bicknell, who lives in Hernando County.
Harmon, who at the time was assistant chief, was there.
"I was concerned about her as well as the allegations," Harmon said Friday.
The St. Petersburg Police Department conducted its own criminal inquiry into the sexual battery charges. It included a search of Rivera-Rivera's apartment, which did not turn up any controlled substances.
The Police Department then referred the case to State Attorney Bernie McCabe. The prosecutor declined to pursue the case in February because of "insufficient evidence."
Police administrators said the case was not investigated by an outside agency because it did not involve a chief or assistant chief.
"I think it was handled correctly," said DeKay, the assistant chief.
Asked why the department did not place the male officers on administrative leave, Chief Harmon said, "Those (decisions) are made on a case-by-case basis."
Carrington, Bicknell's attorney, said she was surprised by Bicknell's dismissal. She had been out on medical leave and then was working a light-duty assignment, taking reports over the phone.
Carrington accused the department of unfairly using her probationary status to fire her.
"You could fire somebody for parting their hair wrong if they're on probation," Carrington said.
Police officials deny the allegation.
Bicknell, who worked at Busch Gardens gift shops before becoming an officer in June 2000, had good evaluations. Supervisors noted her "concern for cultural diversity issues" when dealing with the public. A training sergeant described her as a "pleasure to work with."
Leconte, an officer for two years, has been counseled for making inappropriate comments at work and disciplined for two cruiser accidents and for mishandling his firearm.
Rivera-Rivera, a four-year officer, is on the SWAT team. Supervisors have lauded him for his "professional image" and ability to maintain "a level of peace and cooperation by those he encounters."
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