A pair of former Los Angeles police officers were sentenced to 25 years behind bars after pleading no contest to charges of sexually assaulting multiple women.
Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols abusing their authority to prey on vulnerable women, luring them into their car and warning of repercussions if they did not perform sex acts on them, prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said.
The abuses often occurred when the pair was on duty, they told Los Angeles County Superior Court.
“I’ve gained a lot of unnecessary hatred for law officers, and I’ve gained so much regret for not being able to fight back,” an unnamed victim testified. “I’ve lost the ability to trust and mostly I lost the privilege of being safe”.
An arrest warrant affidavit described a years-long pattern of the two officers coercing sex acts from women whom they had encountered during previous arrests or who worked as confidential informants for the police department.
On multiple occasions they detained women and forced them into sex acts in their car, it said.
Often with one officer would perform a sex act while the other watched it added. On multiple occasions, according to legal documents and prosecutors, the officers threatened women with incarceration or deportation if they didn’t comply.
Facing more than a dozen charges, the pair pleaded no contest to two counts each of forcible rape and two other counts of sexual assault.
Serving as an alternative to a pleading of guilty or not guilty, a no contest plea,has the same immediate effect as a guilty plea and is often offered as a part of a plea bargain.
After prosecutors announced the charges against them, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck called their behaviour “horrific” and accused them of “a violation of public trust”.
He told reporters: “These two officers have disgraced themselves, they’ve disgraced this badge, they’ve disgraced their oath of office."
The city of Los Angeles has paid out around $1.8m (£1.3m) to settle lawsuits brought by three women who accused the officers of abuse, and a fourth lawsuit is still pending.