Oakland Settles Police Sex-Abuse Case for $989,000

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Oakland will pay nearly $1 million to settle a claim by the teenage girl who accused Bay Area police officers of passing her around for sex — an offer one councilwoman called too low. Seven officers have been criminally charged.

Following the recommendation of City Attorney Barbara Parker, the Oakland City Council voted 7 to 1 early Wednesday morning to settle the claim for $989,000.

Councilwoman Desley Brooks, the lone No vote, called the settlement figure too low.

“I think it is appalling,” Brooks said just before the council’s 2 a.m. vote.

“I believe this settlement is yet another example of Ms. Guap being abused by the system. A young girl was victimized, and morally we don’t see that it is wrong, that we can vote for this settlement.”

The girl, who went by the name Celeste Guap, filed the claim in September against the city, the Oakland Police Department and several of its officers, seeking $66 million in damages.  Officers from several Bay Area law enforcement agencies allegedly had sex with Guap while she worked as an underage prostitute, and gave her confidential information on prostitution stings, according to the city attorney’s report.

Guap accused Oakland officers of raping and trafficking her, in violation of her civil rights. She accused the Oakland Police Department of failing to properly supervise and train its officers on sexual exploitation and abuse.

“How did we create this culture where so many in the department either were willing to engage in or hide sexual misconduct?” asked Guap’s attorney, John Burris, in a statement Wednesday. “The settlement occurred with no admission of liability, but obviously if you pay $1 million, you figure you got some responsibility.”

Alameda County prosecutors have charged six officers with crimes involving Guap, including felony oral copulation with a minor, engaging in prostitution and obstruction of justice.

Former Oakland Police Officer Brian Bunton, who is charged with engaging in prostitution with Guap and obstructing justice by telling her about a prostitution sting, will be arraigned on June 5. A retired Oakland police captain charged with solicitation in Contra Costa County accepted a no-contest plea deal.

The sex abuse allegations came to light in a suicide note written by Oakland police Officer Brendan O’Brien. After they became public three Oakland police chiefs were toppled in nine days as Mayor Libby Schaff strained to bring the lurching department under control. Oakland, Richmond and Livermore and the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department launched misconduct investigations.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson has twice indicated he is not satisfied with how Oakland investigated the allegations. Henderson in February appointed an independent attorney to review the city’s investigation, and granted him access to privileged correspondence from the city attorney’s office to facilitate the inquiry.

That order came nearly a year after Henderson turned over the investigation to a federal monitor, after it was revealed that the police department knew about the allegations but failed to properly investigate them.

“I hope as you raise these issues of trafficking going forward, you think of this young girl [who was exploited] under the color of authority,” Councilwoman Brooks told her colleagues. “There is something wrong with this.”

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