Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Sex Scandal

Hypocrisy in Alameda County

Credit: Alameda County Sheriff’s Dept.

Former Livermore Police Officer Daniel Black is on trial.  He is one of dozens of Bay Area police officers who allegedly abused their power to sexually exploit my former client, Jasmine.  Black admits that he had multiple sexual encounters with 19-year-old Jasmine.  He claims the sex was part of “a private relationship” with Jasmine.  Black’s alleged conduct took place in April 2016 while the Oakland Police Department was trying to cover up Jasmine’s sexual exploitation by OPD officers.

In September 2015 OPD Officer Brendan O’Brien committed suicide and left a note “naming names.”  O’Brien’s suicide exposed the commercial sex trafficking of young women by law enforcement throughout the Bay Area.  Daniel Black was not one of the men named in the note.  Apparently he was not aware of the ongoing OPD cover-up and investigation. He is accused of going to Richmond to get Jasmine in April 2016, and using food and alcohol to compensate her for having sex with him.

Felonies and Misdemeanors

Penal Code Section 266i (a)(2) provides that any person who “[b]y promises, threats, violence, or by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, or encourages another person to become a prostitute” is guilty of pandering. Dan Black’s sexual exploitation of 19-year-old Jasmine was “pandering” her under the law.  The fact that someone has previously engaged in prostitution is not a defense to the charge.  Penal Code Section 266 is a felony.

Dan Black is on trial for five (5) misdemeanors.  He is charged with engaging in prostitution, engaging in lewd conduct in public and giving alcohol to a minor (under age 21).  Misdemeanor charges carry far less severe punishment than felony charges.  Misdemeanor convictions can include unsupervised probation or no jail time.  Felonies usually include some type of prison or jail time and significant restrictions of your constitutional rights, including the right to vote.  Dan Black is not charged with any felonies.  He is not charged under California’s human trafficking law.  This is very strange.

Proposition 35 – Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act

In 2012, California voters passed Proposition 35.  The law passed by a huge margin. 81.3% of voters said yes.  Prop. 35 is intended to fight commercial sex trafficking, particularly as it affects minors.  It changed the law to include more crimes in the definition of human trafficking, increase penalties for trafficking, provide more services for victims, change evidence rules in trafficking cases, require law enforcement training in human trafficking, and expand requirements for sex offenders.  As a result of the voters, Prop. 35 includes a violation of Penal Code Section 266.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley was a major supporter of Prop. 35.  Yet, none of the Bay Area police officers who sexually exploited Jasmine face charges under Prop. 35.  Not a single one.  This is the worst sex scandal to ever rock Bay area police departments.  This scandal cost Oakland 3 police chiefs in nine days.  These crimes will cost the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda millions of dollars.  Yet, none of the police officers charged in Alameda County are facing sex trafficking charges.  Not a single one.  It is as if Prop. 35 does not even exist.

Prosecutorial Discretion and Overcharging Crimes

What makes this situation even more bizarre is that prosecutors routinely overcharge defendants.  The practice of overcharging has become one of the hallmarks of our criminal justice system – a way to ensure that the system can actually function.  The only way the Courts can handle the number of cases charged by prosecutors is by getting plea bargains.  If every criminal defendant insisted on going to trial and refused to “take a deal”, the system would totally collapse.

In his book Why Innocent People Plead Guilty, Jed S. Rakoff writes that “our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.”

There are no written regulations controlling the prosecutor’s exercise of his charging power in California or anywhere else in the United States.  There is no established or meaningful process for appealing the prosecutor’s exercise of his charging power. The result is that an estimated 95% of all criminal cases end with a plea bargain.

Credit: New York Review of Books

Jed Rakoff cites the case of Brian Banks from Long Beach, California.  Banks, who had been a high school football star with a scholarship to USC at the time of his arrest, served five years in prison for rape and kidnapping charges.  Brian did not actually commit the crime.

 

Brian Banks accepted a plea bargain under the advisement of his original lawyer.  He was freed in 2012 through the efforts of the Innocence Project.

Comparing Brian Banks’ case to Daniel Black’s case may seem like comparing apples to oranges.  But the real difference is that Brian Banks was charged and convicted of a crime he did not commit, while Dan Black is not charged at all with crimes he admits he committed.  Is this a case of “white privilege” or “badge privilege?”  Something is definitely wrong with this picture.  The artist in Alameda County is our District Attorney.

The Jasmine Freedom Trust Fund

JASMINE.V2Since May 2016, the citizens of the Bay Area have been shocked and appalled by revelations of the abuse of power by Bay Area police officers.  The accused officers are in 6 different law enforcement agencies.  The central figure caught in the eye of the storm is a teenage girl.  She says that she has worked in the Bay Area’s commercial sexual exploitation marketplace since she was 12.

On September 1, 2016, we learned that this young victim had been shipped to a so-called “rehab” facility in Florida where she was promptly arrested, charged with a felony and carted off to jail.

Three horrifying truths have emerged in this crisis of corruption: (1) her sexual exploitation was cultivated, condoned and encouraged by law enforcement officials; (2) she is not the only child caught up in the Bay Area’s network of police sexual predators; and (3) her swift transformation from rape victim to felony assailant sends a clear message to all commercially sexually exploited youth in the Bay Area that you best not say anything to anybody.

Say Goodbye to “Celeste Guap”

For months, the teenage girl who was raped and exploited by police officers was the highlight of the news.  “Celeste Guap” was everywhere – from CNN to Youtube.  Some reporters demanded answers from police officials and focused on the lack of accountability and the pervasiveness of the problem.  Others elevated “Celeste Guap” to a Kardashian-like celebrity status.  Almost every interviewer seemed to ignore the obvious facts that she was a victim who was robbed of her childhood and that she needed a lawyer bad.  The obvious came crashing into everyone’s reality with her arrest in Florida.  While some of us were standing in front of the Richmond Police Department demanding transparency and accountability in her case, her carefully orchestrated transition from victim to felon had already taken place.  As part of her criminalization, her real name, Jasmine, was revealed as well as her home address, details about her medical treatment, her arrest and her transport to the jailhouse with her hands and feet shackled together in a hobble, a device that ties a suspect’s hands to their legs.

Was It A Set-Up?

Even before the proverbial SH– hit the fan, no one in law enforcement was taking responsibility for “the brilliant idea” to send 19-year-old Jasmine to Florida for “rehab.”  The Richmond Police Department has denied any involvement in sending her to Florida.  The Alameda County District Attorney’s office responded to inquiries with a “no comment.”  The story out of Florida is that Jasmine, at 5 feet, 130 pounds, was being subdued by two security workers, both of whom are described as 6 feet tall and one weighing 230 pounds, and the other at 240 pounds.  The 6 foot, 230 pound security officer is identified as the victim of the aggravated battery felony charge.  His injury is a bite on the arm.  Jasmine was taken from the alleged rehab facility where she was allegedly detoxifying from heroin to jail, where she has been since August 29th.  She has no family there or any ties to Florida, or any reason to be there, other than someone in Bay Area law enforcement thought it would be a good idea for her to go there.  It will be very interesting to learn who persuaded Jasmine that this was a good idea and what law enforcement agency that person actually works for.

The Bracelet Freedom Fund

     BRACELET IMAGEIn 2009, Attorney Charles Bonner published a novel called The Bracelet.  It is based on a case he handled where at least four young women were kidnapped and held as sex slaves in Syracuse, New York.  The case and the story highlights the pervasiveness of sex trafficking in our country and around the world.  Jasmine has hired Attorney Charles Bonner to represent her.  Attorney Bonner insists that I assist him with the case.  Together, we have set up a freedom trust fund for Jasmine’s legal and medical expenses, and to assist any other commercially sexually exploited youth who have been preyed upon by the police or other traffickers.  We know that Jasmine is not the only one.  We know that her tragic story is not unique or unusual.  Indeed, as a former foster child who walked away from an obviously dysfunctional system, I can truly say “there for the grace of God go I!”

And so my heart bleeds for this child.  If your heart is touched by her ordeal, please go to the Jasmine Freedom Trust Fund and donate whatever you can for her rescue, recovery and redemption.  Help us send a message to the other victims who are still trapped and living in a nightmare of fear, addiction and exploitation that we really will not tolerate sex trafficking in our backyard.  Thank you.

The Jasmine Freedom Trust Fund is established and administered under the non-profit Bracelet Charitable Freedom Fund.  All donations are tax-deductible.

A Crisis of Corruption: How Long Has It Been Like This!

SEX TRAFFICKINGA Crisis of Corruption: How Long Has it Been Like This!?! We are shocked by the recent news that police officers have engaged in sex trafficking of a teenager across 6 jurisdictions. In fact, the current crisis of corruption is the latest in a history of corruption within the Oakland Police Department. Here are a few examples.

From the Archives

Between 2006 and 2008, Oakland settled two lawsuits brought on behalf of Asian-American women targeted by Oakland police officer Richard Valerga. Officer Valerga would pull women over for traffic misdemeanors and hit on them. Most of the women were recent immigrants.  They included teenagers to women in their 40s.  In 2006, the City agreed to pay $190,000 to two Asian-American women.  In 2008 it agreed to pay an additional $2 million to 16 other Asian-American women targeted by Valerga. Officer Valerga was arrested and charged in 2005. His plea deal in 2006 got him three years probation and six months in jail.  Attorney John Burris who represented the plaintiffs called it “a slap on the hand.”

The Oliver Case

In July 2010, the Oakland City Council approved a $6.5 million settlement in a case which exposed the routine use of false or misleading information for  search warrants. There, the department’s own records allegedly showed that more than 57% of all search warrants in drug cases involving a confidential informant between 2001 and 2008 were based on false information. Eleven officers were fired. Most were later reinstated. Despite the large payout of our tax dollars, none of the officers accused of creating false police reports were ever prosecuted. Some of them still work for Oakland police.

The Amaro Case

In October 2011, Oakland agreed to pay $1.7 million to the family of Jerry Amaro. Oakland police beat Mr. Amaro while arresting him on suspicion of trying to buy drugs from undercover police officers. They broke five of his ribs and lacerated one of his lungs. He died a month later of pneumonia caused by his fractured ribs. None of the officers involved documented the use of force. His mother was told that her son “died in the street” following a gang dispute over drugs. None of the officers who were accused of concealing the beating by filing false police reports were ever prosecuted. Some of them still work for Oakland police.

The Blueford Case

In June 2014, Oakland agreed to pay $110,000 to the family of Alan Blueford, an 18-year-old Skyline High School student shot by Oakland police officer Miguel Masso. Masso was a former NYPD officer who had been accused of excessive force in New York in 2007 before he was hired in Oakland. Masso and 3 other officers were accused of beating, macing, and tasering Rafael Santiago, a prisoner in a holding cell at the 52nd Precinct station house in the Central Bronx. Medical records confirmed that Santiago had a black eye and six serious burns on his back from the electronic shocks. Santiago was put back in his cell and denied medical attention. NYPD investigators identified Miguel Masso as the officer who refused Santiago’s requests for treatment.

Fast forward to May 2012 in East Oakland. Officer Masso and his partner detain Alan Blueford and two friends. While he is being questioned, Alan gets up and runs away. Oakland police initially said that Alan was shot in an exchange of gunfire with Officer Masso. They later acknowledged that Alan did not fire a gun and admitted that Masso had shot himself in the foot with his own gun. A gun was found at the scene that police claimed belonged to Alan. That gun had not been fired. The District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute Officer Masso. He now works for a different police department.

Do we want to hold police officers accountable for lying under oath and filing false police reports? I believe that public safety requires public trust. What do you think? Feel free to post your comment here or at my Facebook page.

A Crisis of Corruption: Is Something Wrong In Gotham City?

A Crisis of Corruption: Is Something Wrong In Gotham City?

Since May 2016, the citizens of the City of Oakland have been shocked and appalled by the abuse of power within the Oakland Police Department (OPD). The story begins in Richmond in 2010 where a 12-year-old girl says she begins to have sex for money.  Fast forward to September 2014, in Oakland, Irma Huerta Lopez is  shot dead in her home. The prime suspect in her death – her husband, police officer Brendan O’Brien. Despite her family’s protests and the suspicious circumstances, Irma’s police officer husband is cleared of all wrongdoing by his employer, the Oakland Police Department. O’Brien also received a pass from the Alameda County District Attorney’s office – no charges are filed.

On September 25, 2015, O’Brien commits suicide. Sometime prior to his death, O’Brien begins a sexual relationship with the young girl from Richmond, while she is still a minor. O’Brien is aware that she has sexual relationships with other police officers, including multiple OPD officers. O’Brien leaves a suicide note. He admits his sexual relationship with the teenage girl and names other OPD officers whom he knows are having sex with her. OPD begins a very quiet and apparently limited investigation. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office does not file any charges against anyone. The City Attorney’s office takes no action.

SEX TRAFFICKINGFast forward 9 months. The teenage girl goes public on social media and with investigative reporting by local reporters. The scandal explodes. City officials scramble to get ahead of the public disclosures and deny the widespread nature of the conduct, only to be exposed as collaborators themselves in the crisis of corruption. The scandal spreads to include 6 different law enforcement agencies.

Oakland’s History

Oakland is historically “ground zero” for police corruption. It was the unbridled racism of our police force that gave birth to the Black Panther Party 50 years ago. Police scandals in cities like Richmond, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are mirrored in our own “Riders” scandal. OPD is under one of the longest imposed consent decrees in the country with a federal court-appointed monitor. The abuse of power by some police officers is nothing new in Oakland.

“Something is clearly wrong in Gotham City.” Three police chiefs down in 9 days. 28 police officers with allegations of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) against them. Our crisis of corruption has exposed how deep and far the abuse of power has spread. Even the Oakland Police Officers Association President professes to be “deeply disappointed.”  While our community decries the commercial sexual exploitation of minors and works to end human trafficking, many police officers acted like it was “business as usual.” And, some of the guardians of the law turned a blind eye to this form of abuse of power.  Hence, my question – is something wrong in Gotham City?

Check out this Petition calling for an independent investigation on Change.org. I would also love to hear your comments. Feel free to post your comment here or at my Facebook page.

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