A woman who was sexually assaulted by a homeless man in Long Beach is distraught at county prosecutors’ decision to not file felony charges against the suspect.
Following the man’s arrest, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office only filed a misdemeanor charge, which the victim said was a stark disparity from the severe nature of the crime.
The attack happened on Oct. 20 at 2:15 p.m. in front of Village Market on the 140 block of Linden Avenue.
Surveillance video shows the victim, Rebekah Pederson, walking on a sidewalk near Linden and Broadway when the suspect, Miguel Avila, 30, suddenly stands up, exposes himself and grabs her from behind.
She falls onto the ground as Avila appears to pull up her skirt and thrust himself against her. An older man sitting nearby is seen getting up and pepper spraying the suspect. Avila then runs away from the scene.
“Nobody in their right mind looked at that video and thought anything less than attempted rape,” Pedersen said.
According to authorities, Avila is homeless. He was eventually arrested not far from where the assault happened. Authorities charged Avila with sexual battery, a misdemeanor, which they claim was the most serious charge they could bring as the city charter doesn’t allow the DA’s office to file felonies.
Pedersen claimed the Long Beach Police Department presented the case to the DA’s office for felony consideration, but they declined.
Long Beach city prosecutors have now sent a letter to the DA urging them to reconsider.
“The reason we brought this case back to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is that we think it’s very serious conduct,” said Doug Haubert, a Long Beach City Prosecutor. “At the time of the case, we thought it was felony level but as we researched it and investigated it even further, now we’re even more convinced it’s felony level and we want the L.A. District Attorney’s Office to take another look at it to bring felony charges.”
Moving forward, Pedersen said she’s worried for other women in the area and that she will personally be taking precautions from now on.
“Every woman needs to be armed with something to protect themselves and take defense classes,” she said. “That’s what I’m about to start doing.”
Some residents said the incident serves as an example of the growing violence in downtown Long Beach — a problem some say has impacted the safety of local businesses as residents remain afraid to venture out at night.
“The police call this area ‘The Beast,’” said Jason Greenleaf, a Long Beach resident. “They say they don’t have enough officers to patrol the area and they tell us not to do anything. We’re in a predicament.”
As far as the DA office’s initial refusal to consider felony charges, Pedersen said she is distraught.
“I’m angry,” she said. “The fact that this has gotten so much attention is really good because I am a person who doesn’t mind speaking out. I don’t want to be terrified to walk around because I’m not a person who lives in fear. I don’t want it to come to that point, so I want to speak out so maybe some things can change.”
The DA’s office later confirmed to KTLA that based on additional information and a new witness, the case will be reviewed again, saying in a statement:
“We received a correspondence from the Long Beach City Attorney sharing his opinion on the matter. The case was carefully reviewed previously; however, based on additional information, the head deputy of our Sex Crimes Division will review the evidence and interview a witness that was located AFTER our initial decision was made to determine whether any felony charges are provable.”
Avila has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held on $75,000 bail. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Nov. 8.
“We do believe that exposure to greater time in jail or prison is appropriate for the facts of this case,” Haubert said.