A tearful former San Diego police officer convicted of bribing and sexually assaulting women he stopped in the Gaslamp District for drunk driving and other offenses was sentenced after repeatedly asking for forgiveness during his sentencing hearing Friday in a downtown courtroom.
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Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser sentenced Anthony Arevalos, 41, to eight years, eight months in prison. Arevalos will also have to pay a $10,000 fine and register as a sex offender for life. The maximum number of years Arevalos could have received was 10 years in prison.
The judge denied Arevalos probation as a punishment and said Arevalos used the power of his badge to violate women.
"That's a crooked cop, and crooked cops go to prison," Fraser said.
After the sentencing San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne released the following statement:
Today, convicted felon Anthony Arevalos was sentenced to 8 years and 8 months in prison. I applaud the Judge for his handling of this difficult case and his thoughtful consideration concerning what punishment was appropriate for someone who so completely violated the public trust. I also want to thank the courageous victim who came forward and reported the crime which allowed the San Diego Police Department to do a complete and thorough investigation that ultimately led to his conviction. This case should make it clear to everyone that nobody is above the law. As difficult as this has been for the San Diego Police Department, I believe we have emerged a stronger and more resilient organization. The San Diego Police Department will continue to serve this community with the same professionalism and excellence the citizens have come to know and will work tirelessly to restore any trust that may have been lost.
Anthony Arevalos, 41, was convicted in November of eight felony and four misdemeanor charges involving five women, including multiple counts of sexual battery by restraint, asking for a bribe and assault and battery by a police officer. He was acquitted of other serious charges involving two other women.
After the verdict, defense attorney Gretchen von Helms said Arevalos feels extremely remorseful toward the women he victimized.
Arevalos, an 18-year SDPD veteran, was fired after allegations came to light last March that he tried to make "deals" with women he stopped and that he sexually assaulted three of them. Most of the stops in question were for driving under the influence and happened between September 2009 and March 2011.
"This was not a mistake," said one of the victims, identified as Melissa W. "Mistakes happen once, not over a period of years."
In her closing argument of trial, prosecutor Sherry Thompson said Arevalos "used the Gaslamp like a playground to stop people as he saw fit."
Thompson told jurors that Arevalos asked the women, "What can you offer to get out of a DUI?"
Von Helms told the jury in her closing argument that there was reasonable doubt on many of the charges, saying most of the alleged victims were drunk and their testimony exaggerated.
Von Helms said some of the alleged victims sought benefits for their testimony, such as getting their DUI cases dismissed, while some had a vested interest in the outcome of the criminal case because they have filed claims against the city seeking monetary damages.
Thompson read a letter written by a woman who testified that she was assaulted by Arevalos in a downtown convenience store bathroom.
"Jane Doe" wrote that she was raised to respect law enforcement, but feared there were others like Arevalos in the ranks of the SDPD.
The judge said that after years of service that included saving a child's life and numerous commendations, something went wrong with the officer.
"There are bad apples in every department," Fraser said. "They must be shown that if they have conduct like this, they will be punished."
The defendant, in a tearful and halting statement, said he was sorry for the pain he brought to the victims, his family and the SDPD.
"I realize how many people I've hurt with what I've done," Arevalos said. "I just want to say I'm sorry to all I hurt."
Von Helms argued that her client should be given probation, and asked that the judge give a balanced appraisal of his life.
She said Arevalos' life unraveled around the time of the assaults, having lost his home and intimacy with his wife, and acknowledged his boorish behavior around women.
"Do you get 10 years for being a pig?" von Helms asked. "That's my question."
Outside court, von Helms said Arevalos shouldn't have been punished as if he raped Jane Doe.
"It isn't a rape. This was not a rape," the defense attorney said. "This was not any forced sexual behavior. Was this bad behavior for a police officer? Absolutely, I'm not saying that it wasn't."
The defendant was also ordered to pay more than $2,000 to one of the victims, who is receiving counseling.
Victims React To Arevalos Sentencing
Two of Anthony Arevalos' victims finally had the chance to confront him Friday.
One of the women, Jane Doe, said she was pulled over by Arevalos in October 2010 at the corner of 4th Avenue and Island Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter. There, he detained her for nearly two hours, and through her car door that was slightly ajar, Jane Doe said he put his hands down her blouse and pants and asked her questions like "Are your breasts real?"
On Friday morning in court, Jane Doe gave a victim's impact statement that was at times tearful.
"Who would've thought that a man, a police officer with a badge and a gun, an officer who took an oath much like the ones I did in 5th grade to protect and to serve
would use those very privileges to terrorize and destroy? Who could imagine that?" she said.
The months of trial finally poured out in an emotional victim's statement as Jane Doe recalled her childhood days when she took an oath to be a school crossing guard.
Later in an interview in her lawyer's office, Jane Doe told 10News, "It's the first time I've seen any emtion at all throughout the trial."
She said Arevalos' demeanor was a big contrast to his behavior throughout the trial.
"He sat stone cold, staring directly at his accusers. I never once saw a grimace or a tear shed at all," she said.
Jane Doe said she is also upset with Arevalos' attorney, Gretchen von Helms.
"She went overboard with the mockery and the name-calling and the comparisons to party girls in music videos," she said, referring to the music video for the Katy Perry song "TGIF."
Jane Doe said von Helms likened her and other victims to drunken party girls.
Talia Tortora was another Arevalos victim, although he did not physically assault her. She was in a more forgiving mood than Jane Doe.
"I wish your family peace and hope and that you're able to find comfort in your faith," Tortora said.
Jane Doe told 10News she was satisfied with the 8 years and 8 months that Arevalos received, though she said it could be a lot longer than that before she's able to trust police officers again.
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