The LAPD has announced the arrests of two of its officers, James Nichols, 44, and Luis Valenzuela, 43, for the alleged rapes of at least four women. The officers were partners and the rapes took place between December 2008 and March 2011. According to law enforcement officials, the sexual assaults mostly took place while the officers were on duty. As in the recent case of convicted rapist cop Daniel Holtzclaw in Oklahoma, the LAPD officers targeted vulnerable women. These women were recruited as drug informants and fed the officers low level information over time. The women have stated that the officers threatened to either arrest them or out them as police informants if they did not agree to sex.
In one incident, a 19-year-old victim stated that she was forced to perform oral sex on one officer, while the other stood as lookout. She made this claim in a federal lawsuit and stated that the encounter took place in the back of the patrol car. She was told by one of the officers, “You have to do what the police tell you to do.”
Another woman claimed she was forced to have sex with both officers under the threat of arrest.
The charges against the officers include rape under color of authority and oral copulation by force. Valenzuela also faces a gun charge for pointing his weapon at the head of one of his accusers.
Surprisingly, the recent arrests have come three years after both officers were suspended in 2013 without pay. Since then, the four rape victims have either filed or have pending lawsuits against the city of Los Angeles. In 2015, the city paid $575K in one claim and is in litigation over the payment of another claim. Prosecutors in the case have asked that bail be set at $3.5 million for each officer who could face life in prison.