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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cop’s Criminal Appeal Won’t Hamper Civil Case

(CN) - A former San Diego police officer who is appealing several convictions related to his sexual battery of women cannot stay a victim's civil suit, a federal judge ruled.

Anthony Arevalos was convicted in November 2011 over his assault of a 32-year-old woman whom he stopped for a minor traffic violation on Mardi Gras that year.

The woman, who is described only as Jane Doe in court documents, filed the charges that ultimately led investigators to many other women with similar stories.

Arevalos was convicted on charges associated with Doe and four other women.

Doe says that Arevalos pulled her over for allegedly failing to use a turn signal, and that he threatened to arrest her for drunken unless she gave him her underwear in the bathroom of a nearby 7-11.

Jurors heard testimony that Arevalos asked to see her breasts and fondled her genitals.

Doe filed a civil complaint against Arevalos and San Diego County on Feb. 9 2012, a day after court sentenced him to eight years in prison.

Noting that he is appealing his conviction, Arevalos requested a stay of Doe's civil suit. The county and other defendants joined in motion, which alleges that civil proceedings would jeopardize Arevalos' Fifth Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Michael Anello shot down their request Friday.

Though any statements that Arevalos make in the civil proceeding could theoretically be used against him at a retrial of the criminal charges, Anello said that "the possibility of a retrial appears remote."

Compared with a stay, there is also "less drastic" relief available to Arevalos, the court said, noting that he could protect his Fifth Amendment rights by claiming "privilege on a question-by-question basis."

Meanwhile, Doe has a strong interest in quickly resolving her claims over an incident that is already nearly 2-years-old.

A stay could also "directly and negatively" affect the court, which "has an interest in efficiently managing its civil docket," according to the ruling.

"It is uncertain how long a stay would remain in effect, as the appellate process could continue for many months, even years," Anello wrote.

San Diego says it needs the stay since Arevalos is the only witness, and he will likely invoke his Fifth Amendment right to silence, leaving the county without a defense.

But Anello called this argument an overstatement.

He noted that San Diego has already asserted "a litany of defenses which in no way involve the particular acts of Arevalos."

And even if Arevalos asserts his Fifth Amendment right on a question-by-question basis, the former officer will still be able to participate somewhat in discovery, according to the ruling.

In addition to Doe's complaint, Courthouse News found 11 apparently similar lawsuits against Arevalos.

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