More Charges Dropped in Bay Area Police Sex Scandal

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Bay Area prosecutors have dropped charges against an Oakland police officer embroiled in last year’s police sex scandal, after a state judge threw out similar allegations against two other officers for insufficient evidence.

“We firmly stand behind the criminal charges that we filed and wholeheartedly believe that the evidence supports the charges,” Alameda County district attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said in an email.

Prosecutors on Thursday dropped a charge of felony oral copulation with a minor against Oakland officer Giovanni LoVerde, over his involvement with a former child prostitute. The move came a day after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson dismissed similar charges against Contra Costa Sherriff’s officer Ricardo Perez. Perez had faced charges of felony unlawful sex with a minor and oral copulation, and two misdemeanor counts of engaging in lewd conduct.

In dismissing the prosecution’s case against Perez, Rolefson ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove he knew the girl was underage when they had sexual contact. The judge ruled similarly last month when he dismissed charges of obstruction of justice and misdemeanor engaging in prostitution against former Oakland officer Brian Bunton.

Two other officers have taken plea deals that involve no jail time, leaving just Oakland Officer Terryl Smith in the case. Smith faces five misdemeanor counts for accessing confidential law enforcement databases without permission.

Drenick said although prosecutors disagreed with Judge Rolefson’s ruling in the Perez case, they dropped the charges against LoVerde because they were similar to Perez’s.

“There exists a conflict in the law interpreting the criminal statutes that govern the crimes charged, and we have determined that we will seek an appellate remedy,” she said.

Allegations that dozens of officers from departments around the Bay Area had sex with the girl, who went by the name Celeste Guap, came to light in September 2015, after Oakland Officer Brendan O’Brien killed himself and left a suicide note implicating several other officers.

In June, a court-appointed federal investigator found Oakland’s former police chief tried to muzzle the allegations before they became public, and police investigators botched an internal probe into the misconduct. Guap, the daughter of an Oakland police dispatcher, settled a lawsuit against the city of Oakland for nearly $1 million.

Guap also sued the city of Richmond and Contra Costa County in federal court in August, claiming their officers sexually exploited her.

According to the Richmond suit, one officer promised to help Guap escape prostitution after meeting her on 23rd Street in Richmond, a sex trafficking hub. Instead, he began having sex with her in exchange for immunity from arrest and confidential police information. Richmond’s current and former police chiefs knew what was happening but refused to adequately investigate or discipline their officers, she claimed.

Guap said she was afraid she would be arrested or prosecuted if she refused the officers’ sexual advances because they had their police badges and guns during the encounters.

Alameda County prosecutors decided to drop the charges against LoVerde after consulting with Guap, Drenick said Friday.

“We are always mindful of how difficult it has been for the victim in these matters to testify in open court about her exploitation,” she said.

LoVerde’s attorney Michael Cardoza did not reply to a request for comment Friday.

 

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