A former San Diego police officer accused of trying to elicit sexual favors from women he stopped for alleged drunken driving violations in the Gaslamp Quarter must stand trial on 21 felony counts, including assault under the color of authority, a judge ruled Tuesday.
After a two-day preliminary hearing, Judge John Einhorn found that enough evidence had been presented for Anthony Arevalos, 40, to stand trial on the charges, which involve seven women. He faces more than 19 years in state prison if convicted.
"This case has to go to trial," said Einhorn, who added it came down to "either a lot of mistaken women or a man who should never have been a police officer."
Arevalos, a married father of two, remains free on $200,000 bail. He will be back in court July 18 for arraignment in Superior Court.
The defendant was with SDPD for 18 years before being fired upon the filing of multiple charges of false imprisonment, sexual battery by restraint and asking for or receiving a bribe.
Five women who were stopped by Arevalos testified during the preliminary hearing. One of them testified today that Arevalos sexually assaulted her in a 7-Eleven restroom near the Gaslamp District after asking for her underwear to get out of a drunken driving ticket.
The woman said he pulled her over in his marked patrol unit around 11 p.m. March 8 as she left downtown after riding a float in the Mardi Gras parade.
"Jane Doe" testified that Arevalos told her he stopped her because she didn't use her turn signal on G Street as she headed for state Route 94. The woman said Arevalos asked if she'd been drinking, and she said it had been more than three hours since she had last consumed alcohol.
The woman, who was 31 at the time, said she took two breathalyzer tests at the scene, and Arevalos told her that her blood-alcohol level reading came out both times as 0.09, just above the legal limit of .08.
"I was shocked. I started freaking out," she said, adding that she told Arevalos she couldn't afford a DUI because it would ruin her career in education.
"He said, 'We might be able to work something out,'" the woman testified. "He asked me what I'd be willing to do to get out of this."
At some point, Arevalos told the woman to drive to a nearby 7-Eleven to discuss the matter further because they were at the traffic stop too long and people were starting to look.
The witness said she didn't answer Arevalos' questions about what she'd be willing to do to make her potential ticket go away.
"He said he needed something from me to make it worth his while," the woman testified, saying Arevalos told her it would take some time for his paperwork to "disappear."
"I asked him what he wanted," she said. "He said, 'I had another lady give me her bra and panties.'"
The witness said she had just paid $70 for her bra and didn't want to give it to the officer, so he agreed take her panties instead.
She said she went into the 7-Eleven with Arevalos with the intention of going into the restroom and removing her underwear to give to him. But she said Arevalos got the key to the restroom, "followed me in and shut the door and locked it."
She said she took off her jeans and panties when Arevalos made a comment.
"He said I had really nice breasts and could he see them?" the woman testified.
She said she pulled up her bra and shirt to "flash" the officer and he immediately stroked her private area, causing her to freeze up.
"He said, 'It'll be more comfortable if you lean against me,'" Jane Doe testified.
Once the sexual assault was over, Arevalos gave the woman her panties back, saying "You might need these for work," she testified.
When they exited the store, Arevalos told her "we're in this together" and not to tell anyone what happened, she testified.
The woman said she gave Arevalos a business card with her cell phone number on it and didn't report the incident right away, but did so a day later because she realized Arevalos might do the same thing to other people.
Prosecutors played a recorded call in which the woman told Arevalos her alleged encounter with him was intimidating because he was a police officer.
"You handled it very well," Arevalos told the woman.
When she asked Arevalos if he liked her breasts, he said, "Absolutely girl, are you kidding me?"
Arevalos said he liked the woman's whole body.
"You know what I liked the best (was) when your shirt came up and your pants came down," the officer told the woman.
A detective testified that two pairs of women's underwear were found in the defendant's work locker, but he said they belonged to his girlfriend.
The underwear that Jane Doe gave to Arevalos contained both their DNA, the detective testified.
A woman testified Monday that Arevalos pulled her over about 2 a.m. Oct. 22 after she left a Gaslamp bar with friends. The woman said she was stopped by the officer -- supposedly for sitting at a stop sign for too long -- as soon as she backed out of a parking space.
The woman -- who was 30 at the time of the stop -- testified that the officer wanted her to take a breathalyzer test and field sobriety test, but she refused and stayed in her car.
"He said, 'You've got a lot at stake right here and so do I,'" the woman testified.
The woman said Arevalos massaged her nipple with a hand-held breathalyzer and asked her, "Can you feel that?" She said he then stuck his hand down the front of her jeans and moved it front to back several times. The woman said she wasn't wearing underwear.
At some point, the woman said she lifted up her shirt to expose her breasts, and shortly after that Arevalos called her a cab.
The woman said she had told a number of friends what happened -- she told defense attorney Jan Ronis that the encounter was "shocking and uncomfortable" -- and learned about the officer's arrest in March.
Another woman testified that Arevalos pushed his hands down the back of her pants while handcuffing her on suspicion of DUI on Jan. 11 in the Gaslamp.
She said Arevalos squeezed her breast and said "umm" while putting her in the back of his patrol car and grabbed her breast again after taking her to the police station.
Prosecutor Sherry Thompson said most of the alleged victims were between 20 and 30, and many of them appeared to be students. She alleged that Arevalos tried to find out things of a personal nature about the women he stopped, like their interests and what they were studying.
The officer stopped another alleged victim for an expired vehicle registration last Dec. 29. Arevalos told the woman he smelled alcohol and gave her a DUI test, which registered above .05 percent, the prosecutor said.
Because the woman was under 21, Arevalos detained her for being a minor under the influence of alcohol, Thompson said.
When Arevalos asked her what she would be willing to do to make the arrest go away, she told him she was willing to sleep in her car and have a friend pick her up, according to the prosecutor.
When that failed to resolve the issue, Arevalos allegedly told the woman they could go in a dark corner for 30 minutes or go in the back of his patrol car for 15 minutes.
The woman declined, and when another officer arrived, she was given a citation, the prosecutor said.
The former officer is accused of sexually assaulting a woman he stopped on Jan. 10, 2010, in three different locations and is also charged with receiving a bribe in connection with a traffic stop of a female motorist on Sept. 28, 2009, Thompson said.
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