DA Investigator: Cops Held Up Arevalos Investigation After His Arrest

DA Investigator: Cops Held Up Arevalos Investigation After His Arrest

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Shelley Zimmerman, who was sworn in as police chief Tuesday, supports an audit of the police department.

Even after the 2011 arrest of disgraced former cop Anthony Arevalos, the San Diego Police Department held back a criminal investigation into his conduct, an investigator with the district attorney’s office said in court papers.

DA investigator Susan Rodriguez, who worked the Arevalos case, said SDPD brass refused to execute a search warrant on Arevalos’ home despite multiple requests from prosecutors. The DA’s office finally searched Arevalos’ home more than a month after his arrest. Prosecutors didn’t find anything, she said, and they worried evidence had been lost.

“The prosecutor wanted stuff done. It wasn’t done,” Rodriguez said in a 2013 deposition. “You’re never hindered. And this was the first time in my now 28 years in law enforcement that I’d ever seen anything like that.”

Rodriguez’s statement comes from papers filed in a civil lawsuit from Arevalos’ final victim, a 32-year-old woman known in court papers as Jane Doe. In late 2011, Arevalos was found guilty of soliciting sexual bribes from five women, including Doe.  For years, SDPD supervisors had failed to fully investigate Arevalos despite repeated instances of sexual misbehavior, documents from the Doe lawsuit have revealed.

That pattern continued even after Arevalos had been arrested, Rodriguez said. She focused on Rudy Tai, who was in charge of the sex crimes unit that was investigating Arevalos.

While preparing for Arevalos’ trial, prosecutors interviewed Francisco Torres, an ex-cop who had worked with Arevalos. Torres told the district attorney’s office he witnessed and reported serious sexual misconduct involving Arevalos and a woman with mental disabilities in the late 1990s. Tai was Arevalos’ supervisor at the time, and Torres said Tai did nothing.

Rodriguez was concerned Tai had attempted to cover up the incident, she said in her deposition. The district attorney’s office never attempted to confirm what happened with Tai or SDPD because they didn’t want to spark an internal investigation and believed they could prosecute Arevalos for his crimes without relying on the 1990s incident, she said. Rodriguez also indicated she believed Tai was the one who had thwarted the search of Arevalos’ home, though she had no proof.

In his deposition from the Doe case, Tai said he gave Arevalos a verbal warning after he admitted to flirting with the woman, but didn’t recall being told about the more serious allegations and would have acted on them had he known. Tai, a lieutenant, heads the department’s criminal intelligence unit and is one of two officers who directly reports to the police chief, according to the most recent SDPD organizational chart.

In an email to Voice of San Diego, SDPD spokesman Kevin Mayer emphasized that Rodriguez never tried to corroborate the Torres incident or her suspicions with Tai or SDPD.

He also noted that the sex crimes unit under Tai’s oversight led the investigation that resulted in Arevalos’ arrest and conviction. Mayer didn’t respond to a question about why SDPD didn’t search Arevalos’ home.

Doe’s lawyers are arguing SDPD has a culture of tolerating officer misconduct. They want a court-ordered independent monitor to oversee the department. Newly retired Police Chief William Lansdowne has said a monitor isn’t necessary and proposed an outside audit of the department’s handling of officer misconduct cases instead. Lansdowne’s replacement, Shelley Zimmerman, has committed to doing the outside audit.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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42 comments
Gene Loucks
Gene Loucks subscriber

The DA investigator has the authority to write her own search warrant and serve it. She does not need permission or assistance from SDPD to serve  or author a search warrant.

Big Dog
Big Dog subscriber

From reading portions of depositions, and news reports that are available online, I hate to use the word conspiring maybe somebody with better knowledge of law can help.

Sgt. Friedman was Arevalos supervisor. During Sgt. Friedmans testimony he was under investigation for destroying evidence at least six months prior to testifying. Was the district attorney aware of Sgt. Friedmans investigation regarding the destruction of evidence? Who was investigating Friedman? Was the judge, lawyers aware that Friedman was removed from the field while on the stand?

Friedman plead not guilty then guilty.

The ticket audit became a review.

District attorney, Goldsmith, Internal affairs had to know because Worden was a deputy district attorney. Friedman was PD.

Jane Doe, stay strong, you are a hero. In fact we need a Jane Doe Day.

Liam Dillon
Liam Dillon memberadministrator

SDPD spokesman Kevin Mayer just emailed me an additional comment: “During a criminal investigation, many people may have an opinion as to how these should be conducted.  This is not unusual as criminal investigations can be complicated.  However, during the investigation into the criminal case of Anthony Arevalos, the San Diego Police Department conducted searches that yielded evidence that was seized and documented related to the crimes charged.  We believed this evidence would help prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.  This was validated by Anthony Arevalos’ conviction.  The San Diego Police Department absolutely supports the District Attorney’s  investigative process.  The DA’s office has investigators with full peace officer authority.  If it is  determined during their prosecutorial review that an additional search warrant or investigative follow up is needed , we recognize and support their independent ability to seek and obtain search warrants they feel are necessary to prove a case.”

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

"DA investigator Susan Rodriguez, who worked the Arevalos case, said SDPD brass refused to execute a search warrant on Arevalos’ home despite multiple requests from prosecutors." 

Is there any corroberating evidence that is true? Seems like this article hangs on unverified statements of one person with whom the writer has not spoken.

If true, did Ms. Dumanis contact the police chief and request that he order that assistance be provided? 

dave stutz
dave stutz subscribermember

When I worked for the DA if they needed to search and had probable cause a DA investigator would fill out a warrant. get a judge to sign and search. They don't need the police!

Michael Aguirre
Michael Aguirre subscriber

"DA investigator Susan Rodriguez, who worked the Arevalos case, said SDPD brass refused to execute a search warrant on Arevalos’ home despite multiple requests from prosecutors. The DA’s office finally searched Arevalos’ home more than a month after his arrest. Prosecutors didn’t find anything, she said, and they worried evidence had been lost."

Does this have implications for the DA?  The Police Dept also refused to serve a search warrant in the Sunroad case, keeping evidence out of the hands of prosecutors.  In that case the DA blocked the search warrant. In this case the search warrant was stalled long enough to raise concerns of investigator Rodriguez that delay  allowed evidence to be removed.  

Thanks VOSD for getting this information out.  Hope you keep digging to show your readers what lies below the veneer.  San Diego needs to better understand that we do better when we make quality decisions based on hard facts.  This story is an example of what many San Diegans crave, sold, reliable information to make the best decisions we can.  

Dieselman3
Dieselman3 subscriber

Very soon there will be a couple more in the news, stay tuned... The head of the snake is gone, but his mouth piece has taken over. What can we expect now? Better? NOT SO!!!

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

The cops could have a good or at least not-terrible explanation for not serving the search warrant. I can think of some hypothetical ones like "it's not our job to do your work, DA, this is your baby now" or, more bluntly, "you're not the boss of me, DA!" 


But the police department isn't explaining. It should instead of waiting for this to blow over. 


And the DA's office should explain why it failed to act quickly if evidence was really in danger of disappearing. Why'd they (seemingly) just sit there?

Tricia Lundberg
Tricia Lundberg subscribermember

Why didn't DA investigators execute the search in the first place?

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

@Liam Dillon  Sounds like he's saying something like: we did a good job investigating, and we were done. 

Big Dog
Big Dog subscriber

@Francesca,

1- What power brokers might you referring to?

2- 3 Firemen who allegedly beat, robbed, made threats against their children, one of which has died has not had any media coverage regarding his death.

3- All the teachers, police officers, firemen I know want an outside investigation. In fact I talked to one mother who is a teacher. Because of the same stalling tactics by SDPD regarding her son's death-investigation she lost her hearing. When this type of behavior is allowed to grow it hurts all citizens regardless who employs them.

Big Dog
Big Dog subscriber

Jim Jones,

Appreciate your writing skills. I will hang onto your coat tails, hope you don't mind.

Big Dog
Big Dog subscriber

Court records state that SDPD officer Lori Adams (keeper of notes) and a team of investigators went to Arevalos home. Arrested him outside of his home. Every alleged rape case where SDPD had previous knowledge of perpetrator whereabouts, a search warrant was secured. In some cases multiple residences of family. If needed can be done by telephone. Perhaps because SDPD was at the time the investigative-arresting agency not the district attorney, the district attorney was waiting for all the evidence at the time of arrest which in most cases would have included a search of his home.

Gene Loucks
Gene Loucks subscriber

@Randy Dotinga @Liam Dillon  Actually what Lt Mayer is saying is SDPD presented a prosecutable case against one of their own. If the DA investigator felt she wanted more evidence she had the ability and authority to obtain it on her own. She does not work for the SDPD she works for the DA office. SDPD has no authority or ability to deter her from authoring and serving a search warrant on Arevalos home if she and the prosecutor felt it was necessary.    

dillonliam
dillonliam

@gregmoran An excerpt. It's all the depo that's been made public through court filings.

dillonliam
dillonliam

@bcbrewster Also, SDPD now seems to indicate a search was on DA's office (see new story comment). No answer on if DA made request

Grammie
Grammie subscribermember

@francesca @Jim Jones  Hatred is a function of progressives, who often project it onto those with whom they disagree.