The woman was walking her dog in Hollywood one day in 2009 when the Volkswagen Jetta pulled up alongside her. Two men inside the car allegedly ordered her to climb in.
She complied. She had to.
The men were cops.
Despite the undercover car, the woman recognized them as veteran Los Angeles Police narcotics officers. They had arrested her before. Now they had something else in mind.
Officer Luis Valenzuela allegedly climbed into the back seat with the woman. Then he allegedly handed her dog to his partner, Officer James C. Nichols, who drove the Jetta to a secluded area.
“Why don’t you cut out that tough girl crap,” Valenzuela said as he “unzipped his pants and forced [her] head down toward his lap,” according to a warrant obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The policeman then “physically held her head down” as he forced the woman to perform oral sex on him — all while his partner acted as a lookout, according to the warrant.
The woman didn’t immediately report the incident because she was scared, humiliated and felt nobody would believe her.
Six years later, however, the dog-walk-gone-wrong is coming back to haunt the two cops.
On Wednesday, prosecutors charged Valenzuela and Nichols with raping the dog-walker and three other women over the span of several years. According to a felony complaint, the pair of cops repeatedly threatened the women — all of whom had previous drug arrests — with a return to jail unless they agreed to oral or vaginal sex.
In at least one case, Valenzuela allegedly pointed a gun at one of the women to get her to go along with his demands.
“You don’t want to go to jail today, do you?” Nichols allegedly told another woman, removing her handcuffs and exposing himself.
As of early Thursday, there had been no comment from the men or their lawyers.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck expressed his disgust with the two officers Wednesday.
“These two officers have disgraced themselves, they’ve disgraced this badge, they’ve disgraced their oath of office,” he said during a press conference. “I am extremely troubled by what they’ve done.”
Worst of all was that the two cops “preyed on folks that are sometimes reluctant witnesses, reluctant victims,” Beck said.
“It’s a violation of public trust,” he added. “That’s what makes it so horrific.”
The two cops now face a combined 32 charges. If convicted they could each face life in prison.
An attorney representing two of the women, who have not been named, hailed the charges as a “wonderful development.”
“It’s a ray of light that these women will finally see some justice,” Dennis Chang told the Los Angeles Times.
But Chang also said the charges were “years overdue.” According to the complaint, the offenses date back to at least 2008. They were reported by multiple women but the rapes allegedly continued unchecked as an internal investigation floundered for years. It wasn’t until one of the women filed a lawsuit against the cops in 2013 that their fellow LAPD officers moved in, seizing phones and computers belonging to Valenzuela and Nichols. The accused cops have spent the past two years on unpaid leave.
Robert Rico, an attorney representing Nichols in administrative charges of sexual misconduct filed by LAPD, told CNN that if the criminal charges reflect those in the administrative case, “my client absolutely denies it.”
Bill Seki, a lawyer representing Valenzuela in his own administrative battle, said his client also denied the administrative charges. As for the criminal investigation, Seki said it had dragged on for years and was plagued by “issues of credibility” surrounding the victims, CNN reported.
SOURCE: Michael E. Miller
The Washington Post