Two Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers have been charged with multiple counts of rape and sexual assault for repeated attacks on four women over a period of more than two years, LA County district attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement Wednesday.
All four victims had been arrested for narcotics-related offenses. They were 19, 24, 25 and 34 years old.
The officers, James Nichols and Luis Valenzuela, allegedly began sexually assaulting women in December 2008, after becoming partners. Their crimes took place “at various locations, including in their police vehicle,” the statement said.
There is significant history of drug arrests being used by police officers as a means to commit sexual assaults. Last June, for example, a Texas woman was forced into a humiliating roadside “cavity search” after cops said they smelled marijuana in her car.
And in December, former Oklahoma City Police Department officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who was accused by 13 victims of sexual assault, was convicted of multiple counts of rape. “Many of their allegations are similar,” the Associated Press reported of his notorious case, “with the women saying they were accused of hiding drugs, then told to lift their shirts or pull down their pants. Some claim to have been groped; others said they were forced into intercourse or oral sex.”
Nichols and Valenzuela each have more than 15 years’ experience on the force. They are being held on bails close to $4 million; Valenzuela is also charged with assault with a firearm. If convicted, they could face life behind bars.