A woman testified Monday that a San Diego police officer massaged her breast with a hand-held breathalyzer and stuck his hand down her pants during a nearly two-hour traffic stop in the Gaslamp District last year.
The witness was the first in a preliminary hearing for Anthony Arevalos, who was fired after being charged with 22 counts involving eight women from whom he allegedly tried to elicit favors during traffic stops, mostly in the Gaslamp.
Arevalos, 40, who was with SDPD for 18 years, faces more than 20 years in state prison if convicted of false imprisonment, assault under the color of authority, sexual battery by restraint and receiving a bribe, said Deputy District Attorney Sherry Thompson.
The first witness, identified only as Melissa, said Arevalos pulled her over about 2 a.m. last 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.
"I was surprised at how quickly I was pulled over," the woman testified.
She said Arevalos asked her if she'd been drinking, and she said she'd been out with friends,
The woman -- who said she 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.
"I knew I didn't have to," she testified.
The woman said she kept pulling on her low-cut tank top because it was cold with the door open, and Arevalos asked why.
"He said, 'Are your breasts real?'" the woman testified. "I said no."
The woman said she got nervous when Arevalos told her to tell him about herself and asked her why he shouldn't give her a ticket.
She said she told the officer she was in school trying to become a nurse.
"He said, 'You've got a lot at stake right here and so do I,'" the woman testified.
She said Arevalos asked if she was "well manicured everywhere" and told her she seemed like a "nice girl."
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.
The woman said she grabbed her cell phone to record the events, but she didn't know how.
She said Arevalos asked her if she ever performed any kind of favors, and she said no.
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.
She admitted having a few drinks at a bar prior to be pulled over and said she didn't want to take a breathalyzer or field sobriety test because she didn't want to be arrested.
"After I flashed my breasts and he put his hand down my pants, that's when he hailed a cab," the woman testified.
Another woman, Marjan, 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.
When Arevalos pushed on the woman's tailbone trying to secure the handcuffs he said, "Easy, easy, you're in good hands," the woman testified.
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.
Arevalos told the woman he wanted to spank her and see her "in nothing but my heels," she testified.
When the woman said she was Persian, Arevalos replied, "No wonder you have big (breasts)," she testified.
"He told me, 'This could have all gone away, if you'd just cooperate with me,'" she said.
The woman -- who said she was 24 at the time -- said she was just leaving the Hard Rock Hotel with his sister when she was pulled over.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing -- which resumes Tuesday -- Judge John Einhorn will determine whether enough evidence was presented for Arevalos to stand trial.
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.
Arevalos, a married father of two, was on duty during all of the alleged crimes, the prosecutor said.
The former officer -- who is free on $200,000 bail -- 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.
The prosecutor said Arevalos made a DUI stop on a 31-year-old woman in the Gaslamp on March 8. When she registered above .08 percent on a DUI test, Arevalos asked the woman what she could offer him in exchange for making the charges go away, Thompson alleged.
The woman asked the officer what he wanted, and he allegedly said one woman had given him her bra and panties.
Arevalos told the DUI suspect that they needed to move to a separate location and escorted her to a 7-Eleven restroom, where he locked the door, took her panties, then sexually assaulted her before leaving, Thompson alleged.
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 City Attorney's Office has dismissed 15 DUI cases submitted by Arevalos, a spokeswoman said.
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