Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jan 2017
Source: Haleakala Times (HI)
Copyright: 2017 Haleakala Times

 A woman who accused two Los Angeles police officers of threatening her
with jail unless she had sex with them will be paid $575,000 to drop her
lawsuit against the city.

The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the payout to the
woman, whom LAPD investigators believe is one of at least four women James
Nichols and Luis Valenzuela coerced into sex. The Times generally does not
name alleged victims of sex crimes.

Nichols and Valenzuela, both 41, were working as narcotics detectives in
Hollywood in 2010 when they arrested the woman, according to one of her
attorneys, Dennis Chang, and a search warrant affidavit LAPD investigators
filed as part of their criminal investigation into the officers' conduct.

The officers offered to help free the woman from custody as she awaited
trial and win her a lenient sentence if she agreed to work for them as an
informant on other investigations, according to Chang and the affidavit.

"Their power over her was abundantly clear from the get-go," Chang said.

Over the next year, Nichols and Valenzuela confronted the woman
repeatedly, telling her they would no longer help her in her case unless
she had sex with them, Chang and the affidavit said. She agreed, she told
investigators, out of fear the officers would send her back to jail if she

In March 2010, Valenzuela showed up at the woman's apartment when he was
off duty and, several months later, had sex with her in the back seat of
an unmarked undercover car when he was working, according to the
affidavit. Nichols, the woman told investigators, brought her to a hotel
and, on a later encounter, had sex with her in her apartment.

The officers used similar threats on three other woman who also worked for
them as informants or knew the officers from previous arrests, the
affidavit showed. One of the alleged victims said the two officers pulled
up alongside her in a Volkswagon Jetta as she was walking her dog in
Hollywood. The officers, whom she recognized as the same cops who had
arrested her previously, ordered her into the car, according to the

The woman said she felt compelled to comply. Valenzuela, she said, got
into the back seat with the woman and handed her dog to Nichols, who drove
the car to a more secluded area. "Why don't you cut out that tough girl
crap," the woman recounted Valenzuela saying as he forced her to perform
oral sex on him, according to police records contained in the warrant.

The woman who filed the lawsuit was "pleased to get it behind her," Chang
said. "She was not excited to have to go through a trial."

Attorneys for the officers could not be reached. In an earlier interview,
Nichols' attorney, Robert Rico, said the woman and the other accusers "had
no credibility."

Valenzuela, a 16-year department veteran, and Nichols, who has been an
officer for 13 years, are awaiting disciplinary hearings, where it will be
decided whether to fire them. City prosecutors, meanwhile, are reviewing
the case to decide whether to file criminal charges, a spokeswoman for the
district attorney's office said.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck declined to comment on the settlement, citing the
on-going internal proceedings against the officers. "The department will
do the right thing, even if these officers didn't," he said.
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