The tangled case of two former Brooklyn cops accused of raping a handcuffed teenage girl in their custody in 2017 took another sharp turn on Thursday, when the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the officers, asked to be taken off the case and replaced with a special prosecutor.

The rape allegations, made by an unnamed woman who goes by the name Anna Chambers on social media, were shocking: On September 15th, 2017, Detectives Richard Hall and Edward Martins, assigned to Brooklyn South Narcotics, stopped an Infinity Coupe at Calbert Vaux Park, near Coney Island. Chambers was at the wheel, with two other friends in the car. After allegedly finding marijuana and Klonopin in the vehicle, the officers handcuffed Chambers, put her in their van, and drove off, calling her friends from a blocked number to warn them not to follow them.

They then allegedly took turns orally and vaginally raping Chambers, before forcing her to swallow one of the Klonopins, and dropping her off near Coney Island and warning her to “keep her mouth shut.” Prosecutors say they have clear DNA evidence that both Martins and Hall raped Chambers.

Landing as they did just as the #MeToo movement was gathering steam, the accusations made national headlines, both because of their sensational nature and because they called attention to a glaring loophole in New York law: The fact of an officer having sex with someone he’s arrested was not in itself illegal, and Martins and Hall could argue—all appearances of coercion to the contrary—the sex they had with Chambers was consensual. After the headlines surrounding the case, New York changed the law, codifying the obvious: Sex between a police officer and someone under arrest can never be consensual.

Lawyers for Martins and Hall have mounted an aggressive defense, alleging that Chambers's account of events, including her sworn testimony to a grand jury, is full of inconsistencies and contradictions. Among them: They say Chambers told the grand jury that the officers forced her to expose her breasts after she had scratched herself because she was itchy, but more recently had conceded that she was hiding cocaine in her bra. Evidence and testimony show Chambers was wearing track pants the night of the incident, but she told investigators five times she was wearing a skirt.

Chambers also gave a specific account of where the officers drove her in their van during the assault, charting a course away from Calbert Vaux Park, near Coney Island, where she was picked up, past the Verrazano Bridge, and through Bay Ridge. But investigators have been unable to turn up any evidence of the van traveling that route, and cell tower records introduced in court last September show the officers’ phones were never near Bay Ridge. “They never left Coney Island,” said Mark Bederow, Martins's lawyer.

Added to these complications is the revelation that an Assistant District Attorney in the Brooklyn DA’s office, identified by the New York Post as Nicole Manini, was involved in a romantic relationship with Hall (who is married with children), and communicated with him by telephone after his arrest. The DA’s office says Manini had no connection to its prosecution of Hall and Martins and was “walled off” from information about the case, but in an already contentious case, the optics are lousy.

Chambers, the lawyer in her civil suit, Michael David, and the attorney appointed to represent her in the criminal case, Michael Cibella, did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

The defense team has repeatedly moved to dismiss the case, and most recently had sought to replace the Brooklyn District Attorney with a special prosecutor.

The Brooklyn DA’s office has resisted calls to dismiss the charges. But in recent days, tensions between Chambers and prosecutors have escalated. For one thing, because Chambers has taken the unusual course of pursuing a civil suit before the criminal case has resolved, there is an enormous amount of sworn testimony from the civil suit for which she’s answerable in the criminal case.

This mounting list of other evident falsehoods and perjury, including her contention, after a long series of other explanations, that photos of her handcuff injuries had mysteriously been deleted from the Google Photos cloud, led prosecutors to seriously reevaluate whether they could put her on the stand.

At the same time, Chambers was publicly souring on the DA’s office, tweeting on Tuesday that “DA team is trying to flip things on me and accuse me of perjuring due to inconsistencies i made while traumatized. My state representative DAs are corrupted and are trying to defend the thin blue line.” Prosecutors began to worry that they couldn’t drop the charges they needed Chambers’s testimony to prove without looking like they were punishing her for bad-mouthing them.

Yesterday, Nancy Hoppock, Brooklyn’s Chief Assistant District Attorney, wrote a letter to Judge Danny Chun, who has been assigned to the case, asking him to replace the DA with a special prosecutor. The DA’s office hasn’t done anything wrong, Hoppock wrote, but “we are gravely concerned that there is now a substantial risk of the appearance of impropriety, and that this case may, in fact, be one of the rare cases where an appearance of impropriety, by itself, warrants the appointment of a special prosecutor.”

Hoppock cites Manini's and Hall's affair, all of Chambers's inconsistencies, and the rules of professional conduct that would prevent them from calling Chambers as a witness given what they know about her reliability, as reasons why they cannot go forward with the case. Without her testimony, they’d have to drop many of the charges, Hoppack writes, which would “surely be perceived by [Chambers], and we now fear by the public, as evidence that we are, in fact, unfairly disfavoring [Chambers] and favoring the defendants.”

If there remained any razor-thin chance after Hoppock’s letter that the DA’s office might still patch things up with its central witness, it was dashed shortly after the letter went public, when Chambers published a tweet seeming to implicate prosecutors in any perjured testimony:

Bederow says the DA’s office is finally walking away from a case it should have dropped a long time ago, and expects that if a special prosecutor is assigned, they will most likely assess the evidence and decide not to carry the prosecution forward.

“If someone new comes in, there isn’t any prosecutor who could proceed with the case,” Bederow said. “This is what happens when you compromise a thorough examination for the quick filing of charges to satisfy an angry public. That may not be politically correct to say, but it’s what happened here.”

But as Hoppock’s letter makes clear, prosecutors still believe Hall and Martins raped Chambers. “Martins and Hall arrested [Chambers], Hoppock wrote. “When they let her go less than half an hour later, defendant Martins’s semen was in [her] vagina and defendant Hall’s semen was in her mouth.”

While a special prosecutor will have to contend with evident contradictions of Chambers’s sworn testimony, they might still find avenues forward, trying the case on physical evidence alone, or starting fresh with a new indictment.

Bederow concedes that prosecutors say they have DNA evidence tying the defendants—who have since resigned from the NYPD—to sexual activity with Chambers, but declined to offer his own version of events from the night in question. "We don't need to create potential evidence by talking out of turn," he said.

Chun’s ruling on the request for a special prosecutor is expected early next week.