Until now, the first known complaint of on-duty sexual misconduct against former San Diego police officer Anthony Arevalos came to the Police Department in February 2010. A woman said Arevalos sexually assaulted her while transporting her to jail.
But new testimony Tuesday shows that it wasn’t the first.
Another woman testifying in San Diego Superior Court said she told a San Diego police officer months earlier that Arevalos had tried to solicit sexual bribes from her. She said Arevalos stopped her in downtown San Diego in September 2009 and accused her of driving drunk. In exchange for not arresting her, Arevalos pushed for a sexual favor, she told a jury.
Police haven’t acknowledged the complaint. As the allegations against Arevalos unfolded this year, police only confirmed receiving and investigating one complaint before his March 2011 arrest. Though a small piece of testimony in Arevalos’ ongoing trial, which began last week, the woman’s testimony Tuesday raises new questions about what the department knew about Arevalos while he was on patrol.
The charges against Arevalos stand out in a misconduct scandal that struck San Diego Police this year. The department has acknowledged at least 11 internal or criminal investigations against officers, with allegations including drunken driving, excessive force, domestic violence, sexual assault and on-duty rape. Five officers have been charged criminally and prosecutors are considering several more cases.
With Arevalos, the charges are more severe, the alleged misconduct occurred while he was on duty and he’s accused of assaulting multiple women over the course of three years. Every other officer involved in the scandal has been accused of an isolated, single incident.
Police investigated one woman’s complaint against Arevalos in February 2010 and recommended prosecutors bring charges. The District Attorney’s Office declined and the Police Department sent Arevalos back to the streets where he worked as a traffic cop patrolling for drunk drivers — a post in which he arrested women more often than any of his peers.
His case underscores concerns police acknowledged in the weeks following his arrest. Faced with years of budget cuts, Police Chief Bill Lansdowne reduced internal oversight and left supervisors with less time to monitor for misconduct.
After Arevalos was arrested this year, prosecutors charged him with 21 felony counts of soliciting sexual bribes or sexually assaulting seven women between September 2009 and March 2011. If convicted, he faces up to 21 years in prison.
Recounting the September 2009 incident, the woman testified Tuesday that Arevalos conducted a field sobriety test and took her to police headquarters for a breathalyzer test. The woman said Arevalos never handcuffed her or told her whether the tests indicated it was illegal for her to drive that night.
However, the woman said it appeared Arevalos was going to arrest her. She testified that after seeing the results of the breathalyzer, Arevalos said: “I gotcha. Now we’re going to have to work something out.”
The woman said Arevalos never explicitly asked for a sexual favor but she felt it was clearly his intention. “He asked me what kind of favors I could do for him,” she testified. “I felt like he wanted something sexual.”
The woman is not being identified because she is the alleged victim of a sex crime.
She later talked about the incident with a San Diego police officer at the urging of a coworker. The prosecutor in the case, Sherry Thompson, identified the officer as Det. Jimmy Clark. He was a friend of her coworker, the woman said.
“I told him (Clark) what had happened,” the woman testified. “I wanted him to know everything in case something happened to somebody else.”
Clark did not testify in court Tuesday. Thompson said she plans to call him to the stand Wednesday and he’s expected to talk about his conversation with the woman and his reaction.
When she talked with Clark, the woman said she didn’t know Arevalos by name. She told Clark the story of what happened and identified the police officer who’d stopped her as a Hispanic male. It’s unclear what came about at the department as a result of that conversation.
The woman said she didn’t file a formal complaint against Arevalos, fearing she would have been charged with drunken driving in retaliation. After Arevalos was arrested in March, the woman came into contact with authorities again and her case became part of the charges against him.
Arevalos’ trial continues Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?
Please contact him directly at email@example.com or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.
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