|Page (1) of 1 - 02/10/12||email article||print page|
Officer sentenced for on-duty sex crimesSan Diego officer sentenced for on-duty sex crimes that were part of department scandal
SAN DIEGO (AP) ' A veteran San Diego police officer was sentenced Friday to nearly nine years in prison for on-duty sexual battery and other crimes that were part of an embarrassing string of officer misconduct incidents that prompted major reforms in the department protecting the nation's eighth-largest city.
Former officer Anthony Arevalos was convicted of eight felony and four misdemeanor charges for soliciting sexual favors in exchange for not issuing traffic tickets against young women, some of whom were inebriated.
One woman was sexually assaulted in a convenience store bathroom in exchange for not being written up for a DUI.
The case capped a series of scandals that rocked the police force in one of the country's safest cities and raised questions about whether the department was turning a blind eye to the misconduct amid the plummeting crime rate.
Nearly two dozen officers were busted on allegations ranging from rape to drunken driving and domestic violence.
Chief William Lansdowne said public trust in the force had fallen so low at one point that people were verbally challenging officers when stopped for questioning.
He has taken measures to address the problem, including beefing up internal-affairs staffing and ethics training, reviewing use-of-force tactics, and conducting meetings with uniformed and civilian employees.
The 2,300-member department has seen improvement, spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown said. But the problem has not completely disappeared. Last month, a former supervisor of Arevalos was charged with fixing a ticket for a friend, a deputy district attorney, who was also charged.
The case against Arevalos was among the most egregious of the department's scandals.
A jury convicted him of sexual battery, bribery, assault by an officer and false imprisonment. The crimes involved five women during an 18-month period starting in 2009. All were stopped in the downtown Gaslamp Quarter, known for its vibrant night life.
Arevalos was arrested last March after a woman reported he had stopped her in the district for failing to use a turn signal. The victim testified in court that after she tested above the legal limit for blood-alcohol content, Arevalos asked what she would be willing to do to make the DUI go away. He eventually led her to a nearby convenience store bathroom where he sexually assaulted her.
Arevalos was fired from the San Diego Police Department after he was charged in April.
Judge Jeffrey Fraser said it was significant that the officer targeted drunken young women who were vulnerable and could not call on anyone else for help.
"The defendant was their protector and he became a predator," the judge said. "If we can't trust police to protect us, who can we trust?"
The judge said the crimes will have a permanent impact on the victims.
"They will forever fear the police," he said.
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Sherry Thompson read the judge a statement from one of the victims who said she cannot sleep at night and is afraid of being alone.
"I still do not understand how for 18 years the sick propensities of Mr. Arevalos were ignored," the victim said in the statement about his time on the police force.
The sobbing officer begged the judge to have mercy on his family and not send him away. He apologized to the victims, the Police Department, community and his family.
"I realize my actions caused a lot of pain," said Arevalos, who must register as a sex offender. "I'm deeply remorseful and I pray for forgiveness."
Chief Lansdowne applauded the judge for "his handling of this difficult case and his thoughtful consideration concerning what punishment was appropriate for someone who so completely violated the public trust."
The chief also thanked the victims for stepping forward and said the sentence should make it clear that officers will be held accountable for their actions.
"As difficult as this has been for the San Diego Police Department, I believe we have emerged a stronger and more resilient organization," Lansdowne said in a statement.
The judge praised the department for its investigation of Arevalos.
"No matter how ugly it was they turned over every rock," he said. "Their job is to track down criminals even if it's one of their own, and they did that."
The defense had asked the judge to spare the 41-year-old father of two from jail time, pointing out that he had been a decorated police officer who removed drug dealers and rapists from city streets and saved a young boy's life during his career.
Fraser, however, said the eight-year, eight-month sentence was meant to punish Arevalos and act as a deterrent to any other potential violations of public trust by officers. The prosecution had asked for the maximum sentence of nine years, eight months.
Related Keywords:San Diego Police,Crime,Legal proceedings,Police,Violent crime,General news,Law and order,Reckless endangerment,Law enforcement agencies,Government and politics