Two years ago, three women in Tehachapi thought that when a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy came to their homes, they would be safe and protected. Instead, they were subjected to traumatic experiences when they were sexually assaulted at the hands of former deputy Gabriel Lopez.
Lopez pleaded no contest to two counts of assault by a public officer, two counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of sexual battery. In support of two victims represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, attorneys David Cohn and Neil Gehlawat attended Lopez’s sentencing recently where Lopez’s victims spoke.
Lopez forced one woman to disrobe, after responding to a reported burglary at her home. In another case, Lopez took the woman into a back room and sexually assaulted her, she told the court. Now, she said, she fears law enforcement and is afraid to ask for help if something goes wrong.
“Apologies are nice, but they can’t change what happened and how it affected someone’s life,” she told Judge John S. Somers before his sentencing, according to The Bakersfield Californian.
Somers said Lopez was in a position of power and trust, and therefore rendered his victims powerless against him. If they fought against him, he had the power to have them arrested.
In the end, Somers denied Lopez’s request for felony probation and sentenced him to two years in prison. He will also have to register as a sex offender when he is released.
After the sentencing, the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles spoke with local media about the sexual assault civil case.
“Today at least some justice has been served,” Neil Gehlawat told Eyewitness News after the sentencing. “And I think she can sleep better tonight knowing that this man who did these horrible things to her will be in prison now for two years.”
Attorney David K. Cohn told Bakersfield media that the client who was present at sentencing was relieved Lopez received a prison term, but thinks he deserved more than two years. At a press conference in 2013 announcing the lawsuit, Cohn described Lopez as a “predator” and a “sexual deviant.”
“How does a person like this get through the system?” he asked. “How does he become a sworn officer?”
The civil lawsuit is ongoing.
Chain | Cohn | Stiles also represents two females who were sexually assaulted in separate incidents by Kern County Juvenile Corrections officers while the girls were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall.
- Former deputy sentenced in sexual assault (KUZZ News)
- Former deputy sentenced to prison for sexual battery (The Bakersfield Californian)
- Deputy convicted of sex assault on two women is sentenced to two years in prison (KERO-23, ABC)
- Former deputy gets prison for sexual battery (Eyewitness News, CBS/FOX)
If you or someone you know has been the victim of police misconduct or sexual assault at the hands of someone in authority, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.