Former Tampa police officer Adam York was by all accounts an exemplary cop. He had an unblemished record, had helped cut down on homelessness in the city, and thought he was well liked by his colleagues.
That all changed on February 1, 2016.
That night, shortly before 5:30 a.m., York pulled over a woman who was speeding near WestShore Plaza. He said she told him her husband was a firefighter when he asked for her license, and began to argue with him about moving her car. He said he let her move her car into a nearby parking lot. He said she kept getting out of her car and struggled to answer questions, though he didn’t think she was drunk.
“I started to run her license but she got out of the car,” York would later tell detectives. “[I] told her to get back in the car. Started to run her license. She got out of the car. And this went back and forth a couple times.”
York said he asked the woman where she was going, and claimed she said she was going to her sister’s house. He said she tried to show him the Facebook page of an undercover cop she claimed to know in Pinellas County. He said she seemed a “bit off,” and let her go with a ticket.
“I didn’t see things to tell me she was intoxicated,” York said. “I thought maybe she was just a little bit off.”
York called in the stop — twice, according to his attorney Rick Escobar of Escobar & Associates. The officer then continued with his night.
“I was caught off-guard that there was a complaint made,” he would say later.
The woman, who has not been named, then drove to Florida Hospital North Pinellas and told the staff there that she had been sexually assaulted. She claimed she was drinking with a friend at their house in Clearwater, Florida, and left to go to another friend’s house in Tampa. Police were notified of the sexual assault, and she told them that she had been at the Snapper’s Grill & Comedy Club in Palm Harbor meeting a man she met on the dating app Tinder. She said she and the man then went to Two Buks Saloon and consumed Long Island iced teas. She said they left after the bar closed and she planned to visit a friend in Lakeland, Florida.
She told detectives she was driving drunk and couldn’t remember much about the traffic stop. She said she knew she got out of the car at least once. She then said the officer that pulled her over told her to pull down her pants. She said she did and then pulled them up. She said the officer told her to pull them down again. She claimed he touched her inappropriately.
After the traffic stop, the woman had texted her ex-boyfriend, who was a firefighter and asked him if DNA could be retrieved from “a hand touching me down there.” The ex-boyfriend told her to file a police report.
“I don’t trust you or the people that say they will keep me safe,” he said the woman told him. “Firefighters and police officers, they’re the worst citizens. I will go to the hospital and call my lawyer now. It’s against a cop.”
The ex-boyfriend would later tell prosecutors he didn’t believe York’s accuser because he didn’t trust her.
The woman, according to Escobar, York’s attorney, refused a full medical exam and would not give blood and urine samples. She insisted, oddly, that they focus on her underwear and a tampon she was using at the time of the alleged incident. The tampon was never found.
A DNA swab of her underwear, taken from the front material, found York’s DNA. Normally this would be the nail in the coffin for someone accused — and at first it looked that way for York. But his attorneys argued that the DNA — known as touch DNA — could have gotten on her underwear some other way. You see, touch DNA refers to the skin cells one leaves on an object after they have touched it. York’s attorneys argued the woman rubbed her driver’s license (which York had touched during the traffic stop) on her underwear to transfer the DNA.
To back up his claim, Escobar noted during a press conference on Tuesday that the woman told police she had only had sexual relations with a man she met on Tinder. DNA analysis found three DNA profiles on her underwear: A major profile of her own DNA, and minor profiles of York and a second man. A match for the second DNA sample was not found, Escobar said.
Escobar had two experts lined up to dispute the touch DNA evidence, but said prosecutors never spoke to them.
Months after the traffic stop, York was fired from the Tampa Police Department and charged with sexual battery.
His accuser’s interviews with detectives investigating the incident were bizarre. Her story changed multiple times, and at times she would yell and curse at the officers. Court documents reviewed by Fox 13 News show that the woman at first told detectives that York asked her to pull her pants down at least twice and then touched her inappropriately. In another interview, she claimed York told her to touch herself — something she never mentioned initially.
The woman also boasted about flirting with officers to get out of tickets and said she was flirting with York that night.
“I would flash you if you asked me to flash you. Like, flashing is no big deal to me,” she told detectives later.
The woman also took a photo of York during the traffic stop, which Escobar found odd. Why take a photo of an officer when you’re scared of getting a DUI, he asked. Escobar said he wanted the photo because it could give the time of the traffic stop, since the Tampa Police Department, at that time, thought York hadn’t called in the encounter.
When Escobar tried to get the photo from the woman, she said she had reset her phone and erased all her photos and contacts, another oddity. She also deleted her Tinder account. She also initially said she sent the photo to a friend. When it was discovered the friend was never sent the photo, the accuser claimed she sent it to someone in the Caribbean. She then said she sent it to this person so she could get bailed out of jail. How that plan was supposed to work is anyone’s guess.
Forensic investigators, however, were able to retrieve the photo and find the accurate time of the traffic stop, proving York not only called it in, but called it in twice.
Escobar was also able to obtain text messages from the accuser to the father of her child, which the attorney said proved “her deceit.”
One of the detectives assigned to the case never interviewed the officers who first spoke to York’s accuser at the hospital. This detective didn’t even read their reports until her deposition with Escobar, the attorney said. This detective also refused to record the accuser’s interviews because, she said, she might change her story later and this would not allow her to do so.
The accuser’s changing story, her behavior toward detectives investigating her case, and the DNA evidence that appears to have been transferred from her driver’s license to her underwear, led the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office to drop the charges against York last Friday.
On Tuesday, Escobar held a press conference detailing the problems with the accuser’s story and the faulty police work that destroyed York’s life. He demanded York be reinstated, provided back pay, and receive all the time he needs to mentally prepare for returning to work.
Escobar also blamed the current climate surrounding allegations of sexual assault for what happened to York.
“He doesn’t want this to happen to anyone ever again, police officer or not,” Escobar said. “We live in a world now where an accusation of sexual battery comes with some difficult responses; by law enforcement, by the community. It’s almost like ‘I don’t want to touch it. It’s an allegation of sexual battery.’ What he wants, what would make him happier for the rest of his life is that he does something to prevent this from happening [to someone else].”
The accuser has not been charged with false reporting, and Escobar gave no indication that she would be.
In a statement released after the press conference, the Tampa Police Department said it had no plans to reinstate York.
“His response was contradicted by the evidence and he was fired for not maintaining the expected standard of conduct and for untruthfulness. We stand by our decision,” the statement said, in part. The Department also said it hoped the dropped charges wouldn’t keep future victims from coming forward.
York stood behind Escobar during the press conference. His wife stood beside him, with her arm wrapped in his and occasionally rubbing his shoulder.
York teared up when he spoke, calling his wife an “anchor” who stuck by him and never believed the allegations against him.
“We have nothing left. They’ve taken everything from me. They’ve taken my kid’s college. They wiped us out,” York said through tears. He also described how he had to tell his young daughter about touch DNA and worried what she would read about him online.
“My life is surrounded by carnage,” he said.
York was facing 35 years in prison for the allegation. When asked by a reporter, he said he would take his job back at the Tampa Police Department.
“I’m qualified to do one thing. I’m trained to do one thing for 20 years,” York said. “When they fired me, they didn’t just take my job, they took any opportunity to go get another job. No one in law enforcement is going to hire me. I can’t go to another agency. With the things they’ve accused me of, they’ve destroyed my background. I had a perfect, unblemished background, and they just destroyed it. I’m qualified to do one thing and nothing else. I have to have that back.”
Watch Escobar’s press conference below: