James Nichols and Luis Valenzuela, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, have been charged with repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting several women while on duty. The men threatened their victims with arrest if they did not comply with their demands and abused at least some of the women in the back seat of the unmarked police car, according to New York Times.
Nichols, 44, and Valenzuela, 43, face more than a dozen felony charges, each stemming from allegations they preyed together and alone on four women from late 2008 to 2011, according to a complaint filed Tuesday by the county district attorney’s office. They are accused by prosecutors of forcing some women to have sex and others to perform oral sex. Valenzuela also is accused of assaulting one woman with a gun.
James Nichols, Luis Valenzuela face charges of life in prison
The charges carry a possible punishment of life in prison. Both men were arrested Wednesday by detectives from their own department and held on more than $3.5 million bail. They are scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
James Nichols and Luis Valenzuela and their attorneys could not be reached for comment. “It is a wonderful development, although it is years overdue,” said Dennis Chang, an attorney representing two of the women. “It’s a ray of light that these women will finally see some justice.”
The LAPD placed the officers on unpaid leave more than two years ago after a stop-and-start internal investigation that was launched when a woman came forward to report the men.
Detectives from an elite investigative unit eventually took over the case in 2014 and reworked it in an effort to gather sufficient evidence for prosecutors to bring a criminal case against the men.
“These two officers have disgraced themselves, they’ve disgraced this badge, they’ve disgraced their oath of office,” a somber Chief Charlie Beck told reporters Wednesday. “I am extremely troubled by what they’ve done.”
Beck declined to say much about the investigation, but said the case included dozens of interviews, forensic analysis, long-term surveillance and search warrants. Detectives also retraced the officers’ movements, he said, checking prior contacts they had made and going to Hollywood in search of other potential victims.
Beck said investigators worked a difficult case, complicated by the fact that James Nichols and Luis Valenzuela “preyed on folks that are sometimes reluctant witnesses, reluctant victims.” “When we got the district attorney’s assurance that she would file, we went out and physically tracked down these — and I use the term loosely — officers and put them in handcuffs,” Beck said.