Criminal Charges, Legal Claim Filed in Cop Sexual Exploitation Case

Attorneys Pamela Price and Charles Bonner, who represent 19-year-old Jasmine Abuslin, speak at a press conference outside Oakland City Hall on Sept. 15, 2016.  (Nicole Reinert/KQED)

Nearly a year after a suicide note by an Oakland Police Department officer set off an investigation of sexual misconduct involving an East Bay teenager, Alameda County’s district attorney has filed the first criminal charges against two officers in the case.

Documents received Friday by the Alameda County Superior Court accuse former Livermore Police Officer Dan Black of five misdemeanor counts for engaging in prostitution, lewd conduct in a public place and providing alcohol to a minor on two occasions in April this year.

Leroy Johnson, a retired OPD sergeant faces a single misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse. Court papers recount the witness claimed she told Johnson through a Facebook communication that she had sex with other members of the OPD, some before her 18th birthday. Johnson allegedly told her that he would not report it.

The charges arise out of allegations from 19-year-old Jasmine Abuslin, also known as Celeste Guap, a former sex worker who may have been the victim of child sex trafficking. Abuslin told police investigators she had sexual encounters with 30 law enforcement officers in the Bay Area and that at least four of those interactions occurred when she was still a minor.

Attorneys for the teenager also filed a claim Friday against Oakland for $66 million in economic damages and additional undisclosed amounts. The move is a precursor to filing a civil rights lawsuit.

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Lawyers planned to file similar claims next week against other jurisdictions who employed officers accused of sexually exploiting Abuslin, including the cities of Livermore, Richmond, San Francisco and Alameda, Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties.

At a press conference Thursday, attorney Pamela Price said additional victims have contacted her.

“Jasmine was not the only one.” Price said. "I have received emails from other young women that said, ‘Yes, I live in Richmond. This happened to me. These are the officers who were engaging in sex trafficking and I was part of the same group that Jasmine was part of.'”

Price criticized Contra Costa County’s district attorney for not acting sooner to investigate allegations of criminal police conduct there.

So far, only the Alameda County district attorney has opened a criminal investigation of police officers implicated in the scandal. At a press conference last week, D.A. Nancy O’Malley announced plans to charge seven East Bay law enforcement officers, but said she found evidence of criminal conduct in other counties that she could not prosecute.

Price said that clearly shows "there is a failure in communication and coordination among law enforcement agencies, where you can have one district attorney who says, 'I have evidence of wrongdoing by an officer of the law, but I can’t prosecute him because he’s not in my jurisdiction.'”

Price said a representative from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office called her for the first time this week since the scandal broke.

“They are interested now in doing some type of investigation.” Price said. “They want to talk to Jasmine about what perhaps she knows about what’s been happening in their jurisdiction.”

In a statement Thursday, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson acknowledged they are taking another look.

“Recently, we’ve been made aware of additional allegations of possible criminal conduct here in Contra Costa County,” he said.

Peterson said his department was reviewing that evidence and allegations.

“It goes without saying that our office will always investigate any alleged sexual assault or human trafficking crimes that occur within our county, and we’re committed to holding anyone who committed such crimes in Contra Costa County accountable for their actions,” Peterson said.

Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb tweeted Friday that Contra Costa’s district attorney should also investigate Richmond Police officers who sent Abuslin to Florida for rehab.

The teenager's attorneys claim Richmond Police coerced her to fly 3,000 miles away for addiction treatment at the Treasure Coast Recovery Center where she was held against her will.

Richmond officials have said that the teenager went into treatment voluntarily.

But according to attorney Charles Bonner, when his client tried to leave the center, “10 people surrounded her -- big men and women. And then one had a big needle -- and she said, ‘What are you going to do with this needle?’ And they said, ‘We can do this.’ And then they grabbed her, and some big guy grabbed her in a bear hug from behind, and she bit him.”

Abuslin was jailed for assault for 17 days until her attorneys got the charges lessened and secured her release on Wednesday.

Eleven Richmond Police officers were investigated for inappropriate contact with the teenager. Richmond Police Chief Allwyn Brown says allegations his department sent the teen witness away “distort reality.”

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