My Letter to the Federal Prosecutors Who Won’t Take My Case

July 12, 2021

The Honorable
Jacquelyn Kasulis
Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York
225 Cadman Plaza E, Brooklyn, NY 11201

The Honorable Jacquelyn Kasulis:

My name is Alison Turkos, I am the victim of a federal crime and a victim of your office’s refusal to take my case.

At approximately 2:30 a.m on October 14, 2017, I ordered a Lyft in Brooklyn, NY. Instead of taking me home, the Lyft driver kidnapped me at gunpoint and took me to a desolate park in New Jersey, where two other men were waiting to viciously and brutally gang-rape me. Nearly a year later, my case was transferred from the NYPD to the FBI. Then in January 2019, my case was referred from the Southern District of New York to your office.

I am writing this letter to you now because, after four years of being asked to relive my trauma, over and over again, I have learned that your office will not take action in my case. Even after emailing Ms. Ngai, Ms. Diouf, and Mr. Mehta on Sunday, July 11, requesting a meeting about my case, I have yet to receive a response. To be honest, I no longer expect one.

Your office has made this decision about my case without ever meeting me in person or speaking to me beyond one Zoom call in 2.5 years. Instead of fighting for justice, you are denying me my day in court.

I’ve told my painful story to AUSAs, the FBI, NYPD patrol officers, NYPD Special Victims Division, victims advocates, and even the press — all in an effort to seek some semblance of justice for what happened to me. Yet, your AUSAs have made assumptions about my credibility and my ability to withstand cross-examination, without bothering to meet me face to face. They turned their backs on me, and continue to risk the safety of other potential victims because they do not believe the brutality that I suffered was believable enough for a jury.

If I was your daughter, sister, or friend, I believe this case would have already been prosecuted. I may not be YOUR daughter, sister, or best friend, but what if I was? Would Ms. Ngai, Ms. Diouf, or Mr. Mehta make the same decision to delay justice or decline to prosecute? Would you worry about my “credibility” then?

In the sole conversation I had with Ms. Ngai, Ms. Diouf, and Mr. Mehta in February 2021, I was not shown respect or empathy. They asked me why I was “comfortable” recounting my gang-rape. They asked what “sexual positions” I recalled. Let me be clear: there are no sexual positions in a rape. It’s an assault. It is brutal. It’s penetration by force. It is not sex.

Later, I would learn they pressed the emergency room clinician who treated me the day I reported about the extent of my injuries. Despite telling the FBI and your AUSAs that my sexual assault was “the worst she’s seen in her 17 years of providing care in a Brooklyn hospital,” Ms. Ngai and Ms. Diouf asked her if my brutal injuries could have been caused by “inserting a tampon.” According to the FBI, your office didn’t just ask this question once. They asked it FOUR times.

If your team thinks that a gang-rape includes “sexual positions” or that severe sexual trauma can be mistaken for tampon use, I have little faith the Eastern District has the capacity to believe a victim or understand trauma. (And for the record, I don’t use tampons. I don’t have a menstrual cycle. Something your office would know if they bothered to ask.)

I understand sexual assault cases are difficult, but not impossible, to prosecute. You have ample evidence. You have my rape kit with two semen samples, a detailed map of the Lyft ride, the driver’s New York City Taxi and Limo Commission license number, the make and model of the car, the license plate number, the driver’s first and last name, his photo. You have details of my sexual history. You know that the driver was the first to ask, unprompted, “Is she saying I raped her…is she saying that other people raped her and I was there,” during a January 31, 2018 interview with the NYPD, long before I ever told my story publicly.

Further, I wasn’t just raped. I was also kidnapped, which is very clearly a crime. Why not move forward with The Mann Act or aggravated kidnapping? If I can stand up and subject myself to merciless judgment for nearly four years, I believe the least your office can do is subject itself to a jury.

Is it because I’m a “difficult victim,” according to your office? Or maybe it’s because I’m queer. Or that I don’t come from a wealthy or connected family. Or because I’m an activist. Perhaps you don’t want to move forward because I’m a multiple sexual assault survivor. Or because I’m suing the NYPD and Lyft in an attempt to hold those systems accountable for their own failures.

As a survivor of such heinous crimes, I deserve an answer. And just as I refused to be silenced by my rapists, I will not be silenced by your office.

While the world was waking up to the explosion of the #MeToo movement on October 16, 2017, I was undergoing a rape kit in a New York City emergency room. At that time, I held back from sharing my story publicly because I wanted to give the legal system the chance to hold those who harmed me accountable. I suffered through the indignities of a rape kit, of reporting my assault, of a police and federal investigation, and of navigating a system that would break most people. In the wake of a public reckoning following the criminal rape cases involving Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Jeffrey Epstein, I had hoped that the Eastern District would be committed to finding justice for the unprecedented wave of survivors and victims that were sharing their stories. I did my job as a victim because I do not want those men to do to others what they did to me. Yet your office is failing to do the job you are sworn to do.

One victim is too many. I never want to hear another story like mine. Fights like mine are worth fighting, regardless of how they affect your conviction rate. If you lose a case, but you are able to provide a victim with some sense of closure, healing, and justice, isn’t that also doing your job? By giving up on my case, what message are you sending not only to me but to all other victims? Are we not worth the fight?

Your office should be prosecuting based on the standard of law rather than the perfect standard you hold victims to. I’m sorry my victimhood is not enough for you. I’m sorry being gang-raped across state lines is not enough for your office to deem me sympathetic. But I assure you, my credibility is strong, and this conversation will not end here.

Alison L. Turkos
Case Number: 7A-NY-2970293

Cc:

M. Kristin Mace
Acting Chief of the Criminal Division
Eastern District of New York
225 Cadman Plaza E, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Genny Ngai
Assistant United States Attorney
Eastern District of New York
225 Cadman Plaza E, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Marietou Diouf
Assistant United States Attorney
Eastern District of New York
225 Cadman Plaza E, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Hiral Mehta
Deputy Chief, U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York
225 Cadman Plaza E, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Allen Bode
Assistant United States Attorney
Eastern District of New York
225 Cadman Plaza E, Brooklyn, NY 11201

The Honorable Sen. Chuck Schumer
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
478 Russell Senate Bldg
Washington, DC 20510

Alison Turkos is a sexual assault survivor fighting for systemic change.