An employee of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department pleaded not guilty Monday to allegations of sex crimes against a 17-year-old girl.
Justin Curtis Price, 35, was booked into San Diego County Jail April 29 on three felony charges of oral copulation with a person under 18, sex with a minor and sex with a foreign object. The final charge involves a victim who was at the time incapable, because of a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, according to the criminal code on the booking information.
Prosecutors claim all the alleged sex crimes occurred on the same day. They also say Price has known the victim since she was a little girl.
"She did trust him and he took advantage of that trust and her vulnerability in committing these sex offenses against her," Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto said.
Price was on unpaid leave from his position with the department where he has worked for 10 years. He was most recently assigned to emergency operations.
Hours after NBC 7 reported on Price's arrest, San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell issued a statement that said, in part, "I strongly condemn the alleged behavior and will not tolerate any actions that compromise the high standards required of all Fire Department employees."
Price was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to return to court on May 6. He remains free on bail after his arraignment, but the judge ordered him to stay away from the victim and his own wife, who filed for divorce last Friday.
Court documents say the divorce filing was a direct result of his arrest.
Price's preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 31. If convicted on all charges, he could face five years in prison.
Two sources have confirmed, the accused San Diego firefighter is the nephew of Mark Raymond Price, 56, a former Coronado firefighter sentenced to 10 years in prison last month for molesting a girl who thought of him as a grandfather.
The sentencing hearing was held in Kauai County, Hawaii. Mark Raymond Price faces similar charges in San Diego on accusations of prior assaults in 2013 and 2015 with the same victim at his home in La Mesa.