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2 LAPD Officers Charged With Rape, Sexually Assaulting Women While on Duty: DA

Two LAPD officers accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting four women while on duty between 2008 to 2011 were charged Wednesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

James Nichols, 44, and Luis Valenzuela, 43, were charged with multiple counts each of sexual assault, including forcible rape, rape under color of authority, oral copulation under color of authority and oral copulation by force, a DA news release stated.

Valenzuela was also accused of pointing a gun at one of the victims, and he faces an additional charge of assault with a firearm.

"These two officers have disgraced themselves," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Wednesday. "They disgraced their badge. They disgraced their oath of office."

The sexual assaults occurred between December 2008 to March 2011, while the men worked as partners for the department's Hollywood Division, according to the DA.

The victims -- who were 19, 24, 25 and 34 at the time -- were typically assaulted while the officers were on duty, the DA stated.

Allegations first came to light in January 2010 when one of the four victims told a supervisor the officers stopped her more than a year earlier, and threatened to take her to jail if she did not perform sexual acts, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Another victim settled a $575,000 lawsuit against the city in 2014, saying Nichols and Valenzuela, who were working as narcotics detectives at the time, had arrested her in 2010, then offered to help her through the trial if she acted as an informant and had sex with them, the Times reported.

"Their power over her was abundantly clear from the get go," the woman's attorney, Dennis Chang, said at the time.

Another attorney who represented her on Wednesday  described his client's experiences to KTLA.

"These officers basically, for the most part, acting as a team, coerced her and forced her -- under ... threats of jail time -- to have sex with them," said lawyer Donald Cook.

All four women had been arrested at various times by the officers for narcotics-related offenses, according to the DA's office.

Valenzuela was an 18-year veteran of the LAPD, and Nichols was a 15-year veteran, the LAPD said in a statement Wednesday.

Both officers were previously released from duty, according to the LAPD, but it was not clear when that occurred.

“I will say again, any officer that abuses the public’s trust is not welcome in the LAPD and we will continue vigorously investigating officers accused of alleged crimes and cooperate fully with the District Attorney’s office,” Beck said.

The arrests are "deeply disturbing," but "should not cloud the efforts of the more than 9,900 officers who risk their lives daily to keep our city safe,” said Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League -- the officers' union.

Nichols and Valenzuela were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday, at which time prosecutors are expected to ask that bail be set at $3.83 million for Nichols and $3.76 million for Valenzuela, according to the DA.

If convicted, both men face up to life in state prison.

Anyone with information about the case was asked to contact the DA's Office, or the LAPD at 877-527-3247.  Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.