LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Two veteran Los Angeles police officers are under arrest, accused of sexually assaulting four women repeatedly while on duty, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
James Nichols, 44, and Luis Valenzuela, 43, were charged with multiple counts of sexual assaults, including forcible rape, rape under color of authority, oral copulation under color of authority and oral copulation by force, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Nichols is a 15-year LAPD veteran, while Valenzuela has been with the department for 18 years.
The defendants, who were partners assigned to LAPD’s Hollywood Division, are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.
“These two officers have disgraced themselves. They disgraced this badge. They disgraced their oath of office,” L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck said Wednesday during a news conference. “These officers preyed on folks that are sometimes reluctant witnesses, reluctant victims.”
According to prosecutors, the series of attacks happened from December 2008 to March 2011 in various locations, including in their police vehicle. Most of the incidents occurred while they were on duty.
“They certainly did it in dark corners and back alleys and apartments at 3 in the morning. It was pretty blatant conduct. It was ongoing over a very lengthy amount of time,” said Dennis Chang, attorney for one of the victims. “They interviewed my client at length numerous times for hours,”
The four women, 19 to 34 years old, were arrested at different times by the officers for drug-related offenses, prosecutors said.
“Velenzuela would show up at my client’s house, drunk, 3 o’clock in the morning (and say) ‘You haven’t done enough for me.’ He’d actually come in and sexually assault her,” Chang said.
Valenzuela denied any wrongdoing, while Nichols “took the 5th Amendment straight away through and refused to answer any questions,” Chang said.
If convicted, Nichols and Valenzuela could face up to life in prison. Each of the defendants is being held on $3 million bail.
According to the LAPD, both officers have been “relieved from duty” without pay but are still with the department.