City will spend $450,000 to settle an LAPD sex assault case
Payout will end suit filed by 1 of 4 women accusing 2 officers of attacks from ’08 to ’11.
The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to spend $450,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by one of four women who accused two police officers of sexual assault — a scandal that ultimately led to criminal charges for the officers and a mounting financial fallout in civil court.
By a 13-0 vote, the council approved the payment to the woman, identified in federal court documents only as “Jane Doe No. 2.”
She was one of four women who sued the city over the alleged acts of Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols, veteran LAPD officers who now face up to life in prison if convicted of charges that they raped and assaulted four women between late 2008 and 2011.
Valenzuela and Nichols, both 45, have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are awaiting trial. The officers, who have been relieved of duty, have remained behind bars since they were arrested by detectives from their own department in February 2016.
The officers had previously taken the victims to jail or used them as informants, prosecutors said. Most of the assaults, they added, took place while the officers were on duty.
The Times first reported the allegations against the officers in 2013 when LAPD detectives obtained a search warrant to seize the officers’ computers and phones.
In her lawsuit, Jane Doe No. 2 accused the officers of driving her to a secluded parking lot in Hollywood in December 2008. There, she said, in the back of an LAPD car, Nichols “exposed himself, grabbed her hand and forced her to perform a sexual act on him,” according to her lawsuit. He then allegedly grabbed her head and tried to force her to perform oral sex.
Valenzuela was in the front seat encouraging the assault, the lawsuit alleged. After it ended, the woman wrote in court papers, the officers threatened her and “told her to keep quiet.”
The woman said she felt especially vulnerable to the officers’ threats because she worked as a confidential informant for the LAPD.
The allegations in the lawsuit mirror testimony the woman gave at a preliminary hearing last year, in which she and two other women allegedly attacked by the officers described frightening run-ins with the men.
At the two-day hearing, the women described the officers assaulting them, sometimes in the back of their unmarked police car after driving to secluded locations. One woman wept as she testified about her attack and what happened when it was over.
“He tried to kiss me after that and say it wasn’t that bad,” she said.
A fourth victim’s account was presented by a detective at the hearing.
After the hearing, lawyers for the officers contended that the women knew each other and that their accounts were uncorroborated.
All four women filed civil lawsuits against the city. The City Council previously agreed to pay one woman $575,000, and another $750,000. Wednesday’s vote signals the end of the third case — and a total bill, so far, of nearly $1.8 million to settle the cases.
The final lawsuit is still making its way through civil court.
“I’m looking forward to taking it to trial,” said attorney Dan Miller, who represents three of the women, including Jane Doe No. 2.
“What occurred here is horrific,” he said of the officers’ alleged actions.
The City Council also agreed Wednesday to pay nearly $1 million to settle another LAPD-related case. Officer Ronald Gray sued the city last year, accusing the LAPD of retaliating against him for “challenging and reporting” what he considered a misuse of equipment purchased with federal grant money for a counterterrorism unit.
In a 13-0 vote, the council opted to pay up to $950,000 to settle Gray’s case.