Two LAPD officers, Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols, are under investigation for reportedly using the threat of arrest to rape at least four women over the course of several years. Two of the women reported working for the officers as confidential informants, while one says she was detained for prostitution and another was allegedly stopped while she was simply out walking.
In a search warrant affidavit released yesterday, an LAPD Internal Affairs officer outlined the allegations against the officers.
According to the affidavit, the department was first made aware of the officers' alleged behavior in January 2010 when a woman who worked as an informant for Valenzuela and Nichols reported being detained by the plain clothes officers while she was out walking; she was then forced to perform sex acts on one of the men. The investigation was eventually dropped.
A year later, another woman filed a complaint with LAPD supervisors, alleging that Valenzuela raped her under almost identical circumstances. While she was walking down the street in Hollywood, Valenzuela ordered her into his undercover police vehicle or be arrested. Once inside, Valenzuela allegedly told her, "If you don't suck my dick, you're going to jail." He then "grabbed her by the back of her head and forced her to perform oral copulation on him," while Nichols sat in the front seat.
A sex worker also came forward, following an anonymous complaint filed with the department that "unknown LAPD officers were exchanging sexual favors from prostitutes in lieu of arrest." The woman claimed that Nichols raped her twice. Both times he detained and handcuffed her, drove to a secluded area, and pulled out his erect penis. At one point, Nichols allegedly asked the woman, "You don't want to go to jail today, do you?"
Additionally, a second confidential informant who worked with Valenzuela and Nichols for over a year claimed that the men insisted on using sex as a bargaining tool as she worked off her arrest.
According to the LA Times:
Sources familiar with the case…said police officials determined from the investigation that there was enough evidence of misconduct to have Nichols and Valenzuela fired.
Under city rules, the chief of police does not have the authority to fire an officer outright. Instead, Chief Charlie Beck ordered discipline hearing panels that will decide if the officers are guilty of the allegations and, if so, whether they should be fired or given a lesser punishment.
Valenzuela, a 16-year department veteran, and Nichols, who has been an officer for nearly 13 years, were suspended with pay during the investigation. They are no longer being paid as they await the disciplinary hearing.
As the officers prepare for the hearing, Nichols' attorney claimed the women "have no credibility."