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When San Diego police Sgt. Kevin Friedman took the stand in November, a jury got its first glimpse of the man responsible for supervising the defendant, former cop Anthony Arevalos.
Friedman was Arevalos’ boss until March last year, when police arrested Arevalos and charged him with soliciting sexual bribes from seven women while on duty. Police accused Arevalos of committing 21 felonies, the jury found him guilty of eight.
The breadth and severity of the allegations, part of a larger spike in police misconduct, raised the most serious questions about internal oversight at the Police Department in the last decade. It spurred apologies from the police chief and promises to reform.
But Friedman’s role supervising Arevalos — a focal point of internal scrutiny — didn’t become public until the final days of Arevalos’ criminal trial. Arevalos’ attorneys called Friedman to testify about several traffic stops involving him and Arevalos.
Even today, as headlines reveal Friedman’s own legal battles, his involvement in one of the city’s biggest scandals in the last decade isn’t well known. When media outlets across the city broke news last week that Friedman has been charged with fixing two traffic tickets, none mentioned Arevalos.
At the trial, Friedman’s testimony played a pivotal role in reducing Arevalos’ maximum prison sentence. Arevalos’ attorneys pushed Friedman to poke holes in the prosecution’s case and undermine the credibility of one accuser. A third of the felony charges were related to her accusations alone.
The woman testified that Arevalos sexually assaulted her multiple times during her arrest. Friedman was at the scene that night and testified that he never saw Arevalos do anything inappropriate. The jury acquitted Arevalos of all charges related to the arrest.
During its cross-examination of Friedman, the prosecution pressed him to explain any unusual behavior by Arevalos. Those questions elicited some of the most damning evidence about Arevalos’ character during the entire trial.
Friedman testified that Arevalos was known to target female drivers and brag about the beauty of the women he arrested. Friedman said officers nicknamed Arevalos “the Las Colinas transport unit” because he arrested so many women.
“If someone was attractive, he would display it,” Friedman testified.
The testimony provided some of the most concrete evidence that officers within the department knew Arevalos acted suspiciously but did nothing to address the behavior. Until one woman stepped forward in March last year, Arevalos continued patrolling San Diego’s streets, where he arrested more women than his peers.
After the trial, Friedman went back to work at the Police Department and stayed out of public limelight until December, when his name and picture aired in a story by NBC7 San Diego.
The station broke news that Friedman was also the subject of a misconduct investigation. Police suspected he’d fixed traffic tickets for two county prosecutors last year.
Then, in January, the Attorney General’s Office made the accusations official. It pressed misdemeanor charges against Friedman and one of the county prosecutors, Allison Debow.
According to the criminal complaint, a San Diego police officer issued citations to Debow and county prosecutor Amy Maund because they weren’t wearing seat belts during a May 28 drive. Debow called Friedman, a close friend, and asked if there was something he could do about the tickets.
Friedman hid or destroyed the Police Department’s record of the tickets, the complaint says, and then told Debow to shred her own copy. The complaint says Maund had no knowledge of the scheme until Debow told her to shred her ticket, too.
The complaint doesn’t confirm how authorities learned of the incident. In December, NBC7 reported that a county prosecutor unknowingly had her ticket destroyed and later reported it to her superiors. The Attorney General’s complaint only says Maund unknowingly had her ticket destroyed, not whether she reported it.
The District Attorney’s Office declined to say when it began investigating the incident, but the Police Department first knew of the allegations July 8, spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown said. The department pulled Friedman from patrol, assigned him to administrative duties and launched an internal investigation.
According to the Police Department’s timeline, Friedman was under internal investigation throughout Arevalos’ entire criminal trial. Brown said the department completed its probe Dec. 8, about a month after Friedman took the stand. In total, the department’s investigation of Friedman took five months.
Though Friedman has been formally charged, he is still assigned to administrative duties and being paid. Debow is also on paid administrative leave until the case is resolved. Their next court hearing is scheduled for March 7.
Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about local government, creates infographics 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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