In the latest update in the sexual misconduct and exploitation case that roiled the Oakland Police Department and affected several other law enforcement departments over the last year and a half, an Alameda County judge has dismissed the cases against two of the remaining officers set to be tried for their involvement with the formerly underage woman known as Celeste Guap. (Last year, as the case unfolded, Guap said through her attorneys that she wanted to be known by her real name, Jasmine Abuslin.) Judge Jon Rolefson dismissed a case Wednesday against Contra Costa Sheriff’s Deputy Ricardo Perez, who had been charged with oral copulation with a minor and lewd acts in a public place, on the basis of insufficient evidence, as the East Bay Express reports. And today, as the East Bay Times reports, Judge Rolefson dismissed the case against Oakland Police Officer Giovanni LoVerde, who had a similar charge against him, also on the basis of lack of evidence.
"Something’s wrong in Alameda County,” the East Bay Times quotes defense attorney Michael Cardoza as saying. “Why would you file these cases with no evidence?"
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office filed charges against six officers last year in connection with this case, and now three have had those charges dropped though the DA's office spokesperson Teresa Drenick suggests that they will be appealing in the case of Perez. Former OPD officer Brian Bunton also had all charges against him dropped by the same judge last month you may recall that Guap herself appeared to testify in the case against Bunton back in May. Bunton was accused of misdemeanor prostitution and felony obstruction of justice in relation to sexual encounters he had with Guap in a hotel room, and for allegedly alerting her to an upcoming prostitution sting by police.
Three other officers accused, ex-Livermore cop Daniel Black, former Oakland sergeant LeRoy Johnson, and former Oakland Police Captain Al Perrodin all took plea deals relating to Guap. Johnson is known to have been friends with Guap's mother, a police dispatcher, and he was convicted of failing to report the exploitation despite his knowledge of it, and sentenced to three years probation.
Drenick suggested that Guap was consulted in the plea deal decisions the DA's office made, and said "We are always mindful of how difficult it has been for the victim in these matters to testify in open court about her exploitation.”
The scandal first erupted in May of last year, when it came to light that over two dozen law enforcement officers from different departments had had contact, some of it sexual, with Guap, who had been working as a sex worker in the East Bay for several years. A possible revelation of sexual contact with Guap before she turned 18 appears to have led to the suicide of one officer who was one of her initial points of contact with the department, and the investigation into that suicide indirectly led to the scandal revelation, which in turn led to the resignation of former Oakland police chief Sean Whent.
One former OPD officer, Terryl Smith, remains charged with five counts of illegally using a law enforcement computer system, because he allegedly used a database to run Guap's information multiple times. He is due back in court in February.
Civil suits like the one that Oakland settled with Guap in May for nearly $1 million may still be pending. Cadoza, the defense attorney, lashed out about that too, telling the East Bay Times, now that the criminal proceedings have unraveled, "The city got scammed."