Two LAPD officers accused of sexually assaulting four women while on duty were seen Thursday in newly released video recorded during a 2013 deposition in a civil suit brought by one of the alleged victims.
James Nichols, 44, and Luis Valenzuela, 43, plead not guilty in court to charges, which included rape and oral copulation, against four women between December 2008 and March 2011 under the threat of jail.
Outside court, an attorney representing two of the women expressed his hope that “this type of conduct never happens again.”
“It’s not a happy day for them,” attorney Dennis Chang said. “It is a day where very violent, serious wounds have basically been reopened.”
Nichols, an 18-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, and Valenzuela, a 15-year veteran, were arrested Wednesday by detectives from their own department, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The men were partners and worked for the department’s Hollywood Division. They had been placed on unpaid leaves more than two years ago after a “stop-and-start internal investigation” began, according to the Times.
“These two officers have disgraced themselves,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Wednesday. “They disgraced their badge. They disgraced their oath of office.”
The victims, who were ages 19, 24, 25 and 34 at the time of the assaults, had all been arrested at various times by the officers for narcotics-related offenses, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
One of the victims settled a $575,000 lawsuit against the city in 2014, four years after she said the officers arrested her, then offered to help her through the trial if she acted as an informant and had sex with them.
“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 her lawyer, Donald Cook.
Allegations first emerged in 2010 when another victim told a supervisor the officers had stopped her a year earlier, and threatened to take her to jail if she did not perform sexual acts.
Beck told the Times the investigation was difficult, and complicated by the fact that the officers “preyed on folks that are sometimes reluctant witnesses, reluctant victims.”
Detectives from an elite investigation took over the investigation in 2014.
A complaint was filed Tuesday, and the officers 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, according to the DA.
Valenzuela was also accused of pointing a gun at one of the victims, and he faces an additional charge of assault with a firearm.
The former officer’s attorney denied all allegations against him.
“Mr. Valenzuela vehemently denies any misconduct by him or any criminal action by him,” attorney Bill Seki said.
Nichols’ attorney, Robert Rico, said his client only interacted with the women in an official capacity.
The case against the pair included dozens of interviews, forensic analysis, long-term surveillance and search warrants, Beck told the Times.
Both men appeared in court Thursday and plead not guilty, the DA tweeted.
Prosecutors were expected to ask that bail be set at $3.83 million for Nichols and $3.76 million for Valenzuela. Inmate records on Thursday afternoon showed the men being held in jail on those amounts.
They are scheduled to appear back in court on March 16.
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.