Ex-Cop’s Sexual Crimes Threaten City’s Treasury

The City Council is just about to get a size-up from its legal team

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    Arevalos pleaded for mercy from the court earlier this year, explaining that his family was hurt by his actions.

    How much could civil lawsuits stemming from a former police officer's sexual misconduct on the streets cost the city of San Diego?
    The City Council is just about to get a size-up from its legal team.

    Early next week, behind closed doors, the city attorney will brief Council members on 12 cases involving former officer Anthony Arevalos, who was sentenced to nearly nine years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
    Legal experts not connected with the litigation see persuasive arguments for the city to enter into settlements in at least five cases.

    Arevalos Sex Crime Accusations Threaten City Treasury

    [DGO] Arevalos Sex Crime Accusations Threaten City Treasury
    Early next week, behind closed doors, the city attorney will brief Council members on 12 cases involving former officer Anthony Arevalos. NBC 7 reporter Gene Cubbison spoke to legal analyst Marc Carlos and Voice of San Diego correspondent Keegan Kyle about the financial consequences of potential settlements with the victims who testified. (Published Friday, Feb. 21, 2014)

    They say one involving the so-called "star witness/victim" could be extremely costly if the city takes it to trial and loses.

    "I was in shock," sobbed the woman, testifying in as a Jane Doe on the witness stand last November.

    "I couldn't believe this was happening to me -- that I was really in a bathroom with a police officer telling me to do these things."

    By that, she meant disrobing before Arevalos in a 7/11 restroom downtown -- their entry and exit captured on surveillance video -- and letting him grope her and leave with her panties.
    Jane Doe was one of five women whose encounters with Arevalos during DUI stops led jurors to convict him on a dozen counts ranging from sex crimes to bribery.
    For their civil lawyers, those verdicts potentially represent a strong foundation for damages against the city.

    "They have now, sworn testimony," says Marc Carlos, a criminal-law attorney who's not involved in the civil litigation.  "So those cases are probably not going to trial, because (the plaintiffs’ attorneys) have that information already sewn up."

    As for the seven other cases, Carlos sees them as toss-ups both for the defense and plaintiffs' attorneys.

    Click here for a timeline of the Arevalos trial in which several women testified against him
    It's expected the city's lawyers would paint Arevalos as a rogue cop whose conduct was unknown to his supervisors.
    But testimony in the criminal trial spotlighted his reputation in the department as a subject of numerous complaints, who targeted attractive young women and wound up with panties and lewd photos he showed fellow officers.

    In the wake of Arevalos' firing in April, 2011, 18 DUI citations he issued were dismissed by the city attorney's office, and the Police Dept. established a seven-point program to help stem a tide of officer misconduct cases.

    Says Keegan Kyle, who covers law enforcement issues for Voice of San Diego: "It becomes a judgment of, 'Do those red flags that were brought up during the criminal trial come to (a requisite) amount of negligence -- and does that then justify those civil penalties?"
    But for the women whose lawsuits end up before a jury, a key issue will be the credibility of their testimony about what really transpired between them and Arevalos.

    "Jurors can understand plaintiffs who come out of the woodwork and try to get rich," says Carlos. "They understand that people can make up symptoms, particularly when it's their word against somebody else."
    According to an attorney who first represented two plaintiffs, the city already has paid out at least one settlement.

    He said a woman who testified against Arevalos -- but was not linked to the charges filed against him, and is not listed on the City Council's closed-session briefing docket -- was paid $45,000.

    Legal experts not connected with the case see potential settlements in at least five cases, and say others are more defensible. But they could be a toss-up if taken to trial.

    So far, no response to a request for comment on all this from the city attorney's office.


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