Powerful men are losing their positions left and right these days with the emergence of sexual harassment and other sexually-related scandals.
The long overdue exposure of this behavior, however, isn’t trickling down to local police departments. Per the norm, police officers aren’t held sufficiently accountable for serious crimes that would put anyone else in jail for years.
That’s the case with the sex scandal that’s ensnared law enforcement in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The culture in those departments allowed officers to treat a teenage prostitute as their own personal sex slave. Based on the evidence, higher-ups knew of this behavior and failed to do anything about it.
Celeste Guap – a pseudonym – who now uses the name Jasmine, says she had sex with 29 police officers while working as a teen prostitute. Guap is street slang for “money.”
Those officers included not only police officers, but sergeants, captains and “even a police dog handler,” according to station KGO in San Francisco. Guap is the daughter of an Oakland police department dispatcher, and the first officer she had sex with at age 16 was a friend of her mother’s.
She was paid by some officers, and other officers sometimes told the Richmond teenager about prostitution stings or ran the names of her acquaintances through databases, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Fifteen officers engaged in sex-related chats online with Guap – phenomenally stupid moves.
Some even posted photos of themselves engaged in sex with Guap.
Guap filed a $66 million legal claim against the city, the police force, the former chief and many officers. The claim sought $6 million from each Oakland police officer who had sex with Guap, and a lesser amount from supervisors aware of the activity who did not report it. The claim alleges Guap was a victim of “modern-day slavery.”
Guap eventually settled for $1 million, with no admission of liability on the part of the Oakland police department. Jasmine’s attorney said, “It was like a cabal that existed in the department. People were passing her around as if she was a kickball or something.”
Oakland police officer Brendan O’Brien committed suicide in September 2015 during the department’s internal investigation. His suicide note provided names of other officers who had engaged in intercourse with Guap.
The investigation led to the resignation of Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent and firings of investigators in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office and the Richmond Police Department. Of course, Whent did not face any criminal charges or administrative penalties in the case. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf eventually placed the police department under civilian control in the scandal’s wake. She said she wanted to “root out what is clearly a toxic, macho, culture.”
In February 2017 Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was sworn in.
The Sorry Six
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced she would file charges against seven officers in the case in September 2016, but ended up filing charges against six.
Giovanni LoVerde, accused of felony oral copulation with a minor, had charges against him dropped in October 2017. Although currently on administrative leave, LoVerde is still employed by the department. Just to be clear, that is paid administrative leave.
Former Oakland police officer Tyrell Smith is expected to stand trial in 2018 on charges of improperly searching a law enforcement database. He resigned last year from the police force.
Retired Oakland police officer Leroy Johnson pleaded no contest to charges he did not report the woman’s sexual abuse. He was given three years’ probation and fined $390. So far, that is the harshest punishment anyone has received in this sorry saga.
That means he paid a fine and walked out of court, having been told to be good for three years.
Retired Livermore police officer Dan Black pleaded no contest to one count of public lewd conduct. As long as he commits no other crimes, his charges will be dismissed in one year according to his plea deal.
Charges were dropped against officer Brian Bunton, accused of conspiring to obstruct justice, along with engaging in prostitution. Bunton resigned his position in March 2017.
Charges were also dropped against former Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy Ricardo Perez based on insufficient evidence that he knew Jasmine was a juvenile at the time of their sexual encounter or that he was aware their sexual encounter occurred in a public venue. Perez had been charged with unlawful sexual intercourse and oral copulation with a minor as well as public lewdness.
Does anyone see a pattern here?
If you are in law enforcement, apparently the laws don’t apply to you.
The East Bay law enforcement sex scandal is ending with no accountability. Yes, a few officers lost their jobs, but a civilian accused of the same crimes would almost certainly land in prison.
When the next scandal brews – and that’s a certainty – will any officer risk reporting misconduct? Probably not, if the Guap situation is any indication. The whole situation just confirms the fact that law enforcement, prosecutors and judges are often in collusion and are never sufficiently held accountable.
When all the children in a family engage in criminal law behavior, people would look to the parents for some sort of accountability – “What going on with your kids?”
This multi-department, coordinated sex trafficking of a minor should clue the voters of Alameda & Contra Costa counties to the fact that judges and prosecutors in these counties are obviously coddling law enforcement’s bad behavior and not subjecting officers to the same standard of justice as everyone else.
To this extent, judges and prosecutors should be considered aiders and abettors for this series of sex crimes. Contra Costa County has a long string of scandals in the district attorney’s office.
Yet if you go to court, most of the time prosecutors are treated like the favored sons or daughters of the judges while defense attorneys are treated with great suspicion and like second tier, back-of-the-bus people whose presence, unfortunately, has been tolerated.