Former officer sentenced to nearly 9 years for Gaslamp assaults on women
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A former San Diego police officer who bribed and sexually assaulted women he stopped in the Gaslamp District for drunken driving and other offenses was sentenced Friday to nearly nine years in state prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
Anthony Arevalos, 41, was convicted in November of eight felony and four misdemeanor charges involving five women, including multiple counts of sexual battery by restraint, asking for a bribe and assault and battery by a police officer. He was acquitted of other serious charges involving two other women.
The eight-year and eight-month sentence, handed down by Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser following a two-hour hearing, was about one year short of the maximum punishment.
The judge — who also ordered the defendant was ordered to pay more than $2,000 to one of the victims, who is receiving counseling — said Arevalos used the power of his badge to violate women.
“That's a crooked cop, and crooked cops go to prison,” Fraser said.
Arevalos, an 18-year SDPD veteran, was fired after allegations came to light last March that he tried to make “deals” with women he stopped and that he sexually assaulted three of them. Most of the stops in question were for driving under the influence and happened between September 2009 and March of last year.
“This was not a mistake,” said one of the victims, identified as Melissa W. “Mistakes happen once, not over a period of years.”
Deputy District Attorney Sherry Thompson read a letter written by a woman who testified that she was assaulted by Arevalos in a downtown convenience store bathroom.
“Jane Doe” wrote that she was raised to respect law enforcement, but feared there were others like Arevalos in the ranks of the SDPD.
The judge said that after years of service that included saving a child's life and numerous commendations, something went wrong with the officer.
“There are bad apples in every department,” he said. “They must be shown that if they have conduct like this, they will be punished.”
The defendant, in a tearful and halting statement, said he was sorry for the pain he brought to the victims, his family and the SDPD.
“I realize how many people I've hurt with what I've done,” Arevalos said. “I just want to say I'm sorry to all I hurt.”
Defense attorney Gretchen Von Helms argued that her client should be given probation, and asked that the judge give a balanced appraisal of his life.
She said Arevalos' life unraveled around the time of the assaults, having lost his home and intimacy with his wife, and acknowledged his boorish behavior around women.
“Do you get 10 years for being a pig?” Von Helms asked. “That's my question.”
Outside court, von Helms said Arevalos shouldn't have been punished as if he raped Jane Doe.
“It isn't a rape. This was not a rape,” the defense attorney said. “This was not any forced sexual behavior. Was this bad behavior for a police officer? Absolutely, I'm not saying that it wasn't.”
San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne applauded the judge's thoughtful consideration of what punishment to mete out to someone “who so completely violated the public trust.”
“I also want to thank the courageous victim who came forward and reported the crime which allowed the San Diego Police Department to do a complete and thorough investigation that ultimately led to his (Arevalos') conviction,” Lansdowne said. “This case should make it clear that nobody is above the law. As difficult as this has been for the San Diego Police Department, I believe we have emerged a stronger and more resilient organization.”