The key witness in a Bay Area police sexual exploitation scandal who prosecutors need to come back to California to file charges against seven current and former law enforcement officers has been released from a Florida jail.
California attorneys Pamela Price and Charles Bonner announced in a statement that the 19-year-old woman known as Celeste Guap pleaded no contest to misdemeanor simple battery today. While they did not immediately disclose the conditions of the plea deal, they said it contained a stipulation that she would not have a criminal record.
Price stood by the just-released Guap at a news conference in Florida later today announcing their intention to return to California, where the officers involved are expected to be prosecuted, and Price said she would file a lawsuit against an undisclosed number of officers.
Price addressed Guap by her legal name, Jasmine Abuslin.
“Celeste Guap is dead.”
“Celeste Guap” is a woman whose name and picture has been blasted over the news with “Kardashian-like celebrity status” but “Jasmine is a young woman who is going to find herself” and has dreams of becoming a veterinarian, Price said:
“Jasmine is glad to be free and wants to go home.”
She said they have arranged for her to get medical treatment at Stanford University when they return.
Abuslin went to a Florida rehabilitation facility last month with the assistance of the Richmond Police Department but was swiftly arrested for allegedly assaulting a guard and was jailed for the last 17 days on $300,000 bail, rankling Alameda County prosecutors because of her key role in bringing the charges against the seven officers.
Price said that Abuslin is not a drug addict and accused the Richmond Police Department of sending her to the Florida facility under false pretenses, potentially tampering with a witness.
Richmond police interim Chief Allwyn Brown said in a report issued earlier this week that allegations that the department “sent” her there “distort reality.” Instead, Brown said the department helped her get funds from the state’s Victim Compensation Program so she could receive treatment.
But Price said the facility was incapable of providing the kind of care that Abuslin needs:
“We have many lovely facilities in the Bay Area and throughout California. The kind of treatment she needs is not from a drug rehab facility.”
“As a lawyer, I don’t tamper with witnesses. … She is a witness to criminal activity, to criminal conspiracy in the Bay Area. There is no reason at all for why she is in Florida.”
Abuslin is expected to testify against seven current and former law enforcement officers, including five from the Oakland Police Department, who Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced last week would be facing criminal charges. The most serious charges are for two officers accused of felony oral copulation with a minor.
Price said Abuslin has been a victim of sex trafficking since she was 12 years old. She came under investigation by the Oakland Police Department last year for a relationship she had with Officer Brendan O’Brien, who killed himself in September 2015 and implicated himself and other officers in a suicide note.
Her attorneys have continued to suggest that there may be more such victims of exploitation who have not come forward.
Bay Area police officers, Price said:
“… engaged in a conspiracy to sexually traffic children. She is not the only one. … It’s happening every day. It happened in a lot of different places under a lot of different circumstances. … Payment can be money, it can be intimidation, it can be ‘I will let you live today. I will kill you in this room.’ … This child has been kidnapped, she has been held against her will. The fact that she is alive today is a miracle.”
Despite the Oakland police internal investigation being opened last year, details of the scandal did not emerge publicly until May. Other departments, such as in Richmond and Livermore, did not learn of their officers’ involvement until after the case was reported in the media.
Since then, dozens of officers in at least eight different law enforcement agencies have been implicated.
Last week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that 12 Oakland police officers would be disciplined, including four who would be fired. Days later, O’Malley announced criminal charges against five Oakland police officers, a Livermore officer and a Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy.
A total of 11 Richmond police officers were investigated in connection with the scandal. Brown said this week that some of them would be fired or disciplined but refused to provide further details.
Former Contra Costa County sheriff’s Deputy Ricardo Perez and Oakland police Officer Giovanni LoVerde are each facing charges of felony oral copulation with a minor. If convicted, they could face 16 months to three years in state prison.
Perez will also be charged with two counts of engaging in a lewd act in a public place.
Former Livermore police Officer Dan Black will be charged with two counts of engaging in an act of prostitution and two counts of lewd acts in public.
Oakland police Officer Brian Bunton faces one count of felony conspiracy to obstruct justice, which carries a possible sentence of a year in prison, and one misdemeanor charge of engaging in an act of prostitution.
Retired Oakland police Officer Leroy Johnson will be charged with one count of failing to report sexual misconduct concerning a minor.
Oakland police Officer Warit Utappa will be accused of searching official criminal justice data and computer systems for an unauthorized purpose.
Former Oakland police Officer Tyrell Smith, who resigned in May, faces four counts of the same crime.
Price called for possible federal intervention because of the widespread regional allegations. A federal judge overseeing court-mandated reforms to the Oakland Police Department as part of a 2003 settlement agreement already stepped in once in March, questioning the integrity of the department’s internal affairs investigation.
In his latest report issued Monday, court-appointed monitor Robert Warshaw said that while he was satisfied with the conclusion of the investigation, he was concerned about how it was initially handled. He reiterated that the fallout from the scandal has led to “perhaps the most trying time in OPD’s history.”
Judge Thelton Henderson wrote in his March 23 order, “This case raises most serious concerns that may well impact Defendants’ ability to demonstrate their commitment to accountability and sustainability – both of which are key to ending court oversight.”
In his report Monday, Warshaw wrote:
“While there still remain some issues to be resolved regarding the sufficiency of resources devoted to the investigation until the matter was brought to the attention of the Court, we recognize the efforts of the City, OPD, and its leadership on this extensive investigation.”