Home Beyond East County Seven Officers Charged, Including One Contra Costa Sheriff’s Deputy, in Sexual Exploitation Scandal

Seven Officers Charged, Including One Contra Costa Sheriff’s Deputy, in Sexual Exploitation Scandal

by ECT

Oakland, CA — On June 15, 2016 District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley announced that the District Attorney’s Office had launched an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct involving multiple law enforcement officers from agencies around the Bay Area and an 18 year-old young woman known to the public by the name of Celeste Guap. Over the last three months, a team of Victim-Witness Advocates and DA Inspectors, assisted by attorneys, have worked full time on this investigation.

Cases brought into court by the District Attorney must be supported by evidence and it has been the task of the District Attorney’s team to identify and examine the evidence, and to substantiate the allegations.  Cases cannot be brought into the criminal court absent evidence that establishes the element of the crime(s) beyond a reasonable doubt.  Until now, the office has declined to comment on the investigation because the full scope of the facts was not known. It is our duty to conduct an impartial and thorough investigation and review of all facts before we make a charging decision or speak publically.

There has been an understandable public outcry over the allegations in this matter.  The work of the media in covering the alleged criminal activity and misconduct has also served to raise awareness of issues important to all of us. The coverage, by and large, has relied on information uncovered by reporters and on limited social media messages provided by the young woman at the center of the story.

Prosecutors are bound by the Canon of Ethics — first and foremost to seek the truth and file criminal charges only based on admissible evidence that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  While this District Attorney’s Office has led the state and nation in prosecuting cases involving sexual exploitation of minors and young adults, the rules that guide this Office include the obligation to critically evaluate a case.

The serious nature of the allegations called for nothing less than a meticulous examination of any and all evidence that came to light. The task of sorting through verbal and on-line statements to uncover and establish truth and fact was monumental.  To that end, the team gathered and reviewed nearly 150,000 pages of extrinsic data, including 2,899 pages of Instagram postings; 76,472 pages of Facebook communication; 59,960 text messages; 6,069 images; 546 multi-media messages; 21 videos. Additionally, the investigative team conducted four separate interviews with the young woman and interviews of multiple law enforcement officers. An investigation of the history and use of law enforcement technology by various officers was also done.

The Inspectors consulted with investigators in San Francisco and Contra Costa County, where sex acts are alleged to have occurred, and with investigators in San Joaquin County.  The investigative team also interviewed several but not all of those accused of sexual contact with her.  The investigation was labor intensive and extremely time consuming, and all necessary resources were expended.

We have made the decision to file the following charges:

Ricardo Perez, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office (resigned)

  • One Count of Penal Code Section 288a(b)(1), a Felony, oral copulation with a minor
  • Two Counts of Penal Count of Penal Code Section 647(a), engaging in a lewd act in a public place.

Dan Black, Livermore Police Department (resigned)

  • Two counts of Penal Code 647(b), engaging in an act of prostitution, misdemeanors
  • Two counts of Penal Code Section 647(a), engaging in a lewd act in a public place misdemeanors.

Brian Bunton, Oakland Police Department

  • One count of Penal Code Section 182(a)(5), a felony, obstruction of justice
  • One count of Penal Code Section 647(b), engaging in an act of prostitution, a misdemeanor.

Warit Utappa, Oakland Police Department

  • One count of Penal Code Section 502, a misdemeanor, knowingly and without permission, conducting a search of official criminal justice data and computer systems without an authorized purpose.

Tyrell Smith, Oakland Police Department (Resigned)

  • Four counts of Penal Code Section 502, misdemeanors, knowingly and without permission, conducting a search of official criminal justice data and computer systems without an authorized purpose.

Leroy Johnson, Oakland Police Department (Retired)

  • One count of Penal Code Section 11172, failure to report.

Giovani LoVerde, Oakland Police Department

  • One Count of Penal Code Section 288a(b)(1), a Felony, oral copulation with a minor

We have declined to file charges against any additional individuals.

Of note, there has been extensive press coverage naming specific officers. Because we are not filing criminal charges against these officers, we decline to identify individuals by name. However, as to each of these investigations, we determined that extrinsic evidence contradicts or sheds reasonable doubt on allegations of criminal conduct, individuals were erroneously identified, and/or any possible criminal conduct took place outside of Alameda County.  As to conduct outside of our jurisdiction, we have made our investigative findings available to the prosecutor’s offices of these other counties.

“There will be those who criticize our charging decisions.  To those critics, I say that we maintain the highest level of professionalism when determining whether or not to file criminal charges against any person, whether a civilian or police officer.  While I find much of the conduct we uncovered morally reprehensible and not befitting a sworn law enforcement officer, it is nonetheless outside of the criminal statutes,” states District Attorney O’Malley.

“I have dedicated much of my career as a prosecutor to serving and protecting victims, especially young victims of sexual assault and commercial sexual exploitation. My office stands proud as a leader in the fight to end sexual exploitation and trafficking of our youth, and we have led the state in prosecuting offenders and serving victims of exploitation.  We have prosecuted 518 cases involving human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors or young persons, with an 82% conviction rate.  We have worked with more than 625 minors who have been exploited. No prosecutor office has done more in bringing awareness or combatting human trafficking than this Office.

“I do not take lightly the fact that police officers engaged in sexual contact or on-line sexual communication with a teenaged self-described sex worker.  But I want to make clear that today’s decision is not a condemnation of law enforcement departments, or of the men and women who risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe.  This prosecution is holding the wrongdoers accountable.

“My office will do all it can to ensure that the young women at the center of these charges receives the services and help she deserves. She has many rights. First and foremost, she has the right to confidentiality in her name, and in whatever her aftercare may be.  We have put the care of the young woman at the forefront of our efforts.  We will do all we can to help her heal and thrive beyond this experience.  She also deserves to be afforded privacy at this point and we would ask the media and the public to allow her just that.”

It has been widely reported that the young woman went to a rehabilitation facility in Florida. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office did not make arrangements for or participate in sending her to Florida.  To the contrary, we protested her removal from California where she could receive the services she wanted and requested. An agency outside of Alameda County made arrangements to send her out of state, against our wishes and advise.

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Nick Sep 9, 2016 - 11:27 pm

Throw the book at every one of them. They’re not police officers. They’re pigs.

R J. B Sep 9, 2016 - 11:51 pm

Libby Schaaf does not mess around. She’s not afraid to do her job.

We need a new mayor in Antioch.

Thoth Sep 10, 2016 - 5:34 pm

The occupational role of the police officer (like cashier or nurse or bartender) has become so glorified in this country that we’ve essentially granted these members of society total control. Instead of speaking/thinking about policing as a job, we tend to describe it as some divinely-sanctioned part of reality, immune to any critique. One doesn’t have to be “anti-cop” to admit that we’ve placed this occupational role in a league of its own, most times immune to the law they implement, and in turn have created this type of crime. I too am pro law enforcement, but we’ve gotten out of hand in this country in the way we protect these public servants like sacred cows. Absolute power corrupts absolutely…

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