A quarter-century is a very long time. That’s how long former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) narcotics officers and partners Luis Valenzuela, 45 and James Nichols were sentenced to prison after pleading no contest on February 26, 2017 to two counts each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation.
They must serve at least a decade before becoming eligible for parole. The judge also told the two that they must register as sex offenders.
Over a Dozen Felony Counts Filed
In 2016, when the officers were arrested, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed over 12 felony counts against them.
The allegations concerned the pair’s sexual assault of four women, ages 19, 24, 25 and 34 at the time. The officers threatened to put the women in jail and telling drug dealers they were informants is they refused to have sex with the officers. In addition, Valenzuela was alleged to have assaulted one woman with a gun. A plea deal resulted in the dropping of most charges.
The incidents all occurred between 2008 and 2011, usually while the officers were on duty. Prosecutors believe more women may have been targeted by the corrupt cops. The duo, who worked in the Hollywood division of the LAPD, apparently went on their rape spree shortly after becoming partners and working as plainclothes undercover officers.
Both officers were relieved of duty in 2013.
All of the victims were either women arrested for drug crimes or were acting as informants for the narcotics squad. The first accuser said that in 2008, she was working for the officers as an informant. They would pay her $40 to score drugs and would drive her to the destinations in an unmarked car. On one such trip, the woman testified that Nichols exposed himself and forced her head into his crotch.
Another victim testified that after she was arrested in 2009 for suspected sale of heroin, the officers were taking her to the LAPD Van Nuys jail. They stopped en route and Valenzuela told her she could stay out of jail by having sex with him in the backseat of the car.
She did so and was released without having to post from jail.
Another woman apparently had sex regularly with the officers, so she could have a drug case against her dropped. In court, one victim said she now went into panic attacks whenever she saw a police car or a Volkswagen Jetta, the undercover vehicle used by Nichols and Valenzuela.
Another woman told the 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. I've lost the ability to trust and mostly I lost the privilege of feeling safe.” She added, "It is a sight to see that finally they'll get what they deserve."
Several Civil Lawsuits against the City for Police Misconduct Settled
All four women have filed civil lawsuits against the city, and three of them have received settlements totaling over $1.8 million. The fourth woman’s lawsuit is pending. So far, the women have settled for $750,000, $450,000 and $575,000.
The women have not been identified, and are known only Jane Does Number One, Two and Three.
The lawsuit of Jane Doe No. 2, whose suit was settled for $450,000 by the Los Angeles City Council in April, 2017, alleged that she was terrified of the Nichols and Valenzuela as they worked her neighborhood, and both warned her about keeping quiet and promised retaliation if she informed on them.
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