BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) – A mother of three claims her probation officer sexually assaulted her in his office and at her home in front of her disabled son, and threatened to put her in jail if she refused his advances.
The woman sued Kern County, its probation department, former officer Reyes Soberon Jr., and Chief Probation Officer David M. Kuge in Federal Court on Friday. Courthouse News has chosen not to use the woman’s name due to the sensitive nature of her complaint.
Soberon pleaded no contest to the assaults of the woman and two other victims late last year. He was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation for touching a person intimately against their will for sexual arousal.
Her attorney, Ben Meiselas with Geragos & Geragos, told Courthouse News what happened to his client was “sickening and horrific.”
“We filed this lawsuit because [Doe] was brutally sexually assaulted over the course of several years by a now former-parole officer who held a position of trust and control and abused that authority. It’s clear to us that the parole office was complicit and turned a blind eye to the brutal sexual abuse,” Meiselas said.
From the outset, the case has been a reminder that the court has a long way to go in terms of how it treats sexual assault victims, he said.
His client first filed a government late claim two months after the deadline. Though she has post-traumatic stress disorder from being raped, the county denied her petition for a late file though the Government Tort Claims Act states the county must permit a filing if the individual suffers a disability or did not file due to excusable neglect.
“One of the biggest scandals here is that a Kern Superior Court commissioner found that PTSD from rape does not equal a disability,” Meiselas said. “Lawyers who file late can get a pass, but sexual assault victims get thrown in the gutter? That ruling shocks the conscience.”
The state court ruling is currently under appeal. Meiselas said he hope the Court of Appeal will see how wrong the situation is and act to rectify it.
“Nothing will deter us from our goal of putting [Doe] before a jury and getting justice for her,” Meiselas said.
The woman claims Soberon “brutally” and “methodically” sexually assaulted her from around April 2012 to June 2015.
“Soberon would mislead [Doe] into coming into the probation office and would take [Doe] to a corner where he would digitally penetrate her vagina and anus while sticking his tongue down her throat, moaning: ‘I want you to make me cum in my pants,’” the 10-page complaint states.
“In one horrific instance, Soberon sexually assaulted [Doe] in her home in front of her disabled son suffering from cerebral palsy as he lay helpless, crawling on the ground,” the complaint adds.
The woman claims Soberon threatened to “put her in jail for the rest of her life” if she rejected him. She was so terrified for her own life, and for the lives of her sons, that she did not know what to do, she says.
Then in 2015, a female probation officer came to the woman’s home and told her she was under arrest for violating her community service obligations. The woman was shocked, as Soberon had promised to extend them.
But when the officer confiscated the woman’s phone, and saw text messages from Soberon calling her a “sexy mamacita” and “baby doll,” the officer immediately left without saying another word, according to the complaint.
Soon afterward, Soberon started calling the woman and threatening to kill her. Emboldened despite this escalation, she told the probation department what was going on. But instead of taking her seriously, she claims the department tried to dissuade her from reporting him and let Soberon continue supervising her probation though he was not officially assigned to her.
Worse yet, the department’s internal affairs officials told the woman she could not hire an attorney, talk to the media or contact the FBI about her report or the assaults, according to the complaint.
With Soberon routinely inventing new, fake requirements to get her into his office so he could sexually assault her, the woman says she “lived in constant fear, believing that Soberon was free to continue molesting her.”
Her nightmare finally came to an end when Soberon was arrested in late December 2015, though she did not learn of his arrest until several months later when she was subpoenaed to appear at hearing for his criminal case, according to the complaint.
The woman says defendant Kuge and several other department officials knew what Soberon was up to, but did nothing to stop him from preying on her. To top it off, they actively tried to cover up his conduct by pressuring her to stay silent, according to the complaint.
As of Monday, Kuge is not listed as chief probation officer on the department management page. The department declined comment as it hasn’t seen the woman’s complaint.
The woman seeks general, special, and punitive damages for civil rights violations.
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