A Los Angeles police officer was convicted Tuesday of distributing “harmful matter” to a teenage girl he worked with through a Los Angeles Police Department youth program, authorities said.
According to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, Abel Montes de Oca, 32, was convicted of two misdemeanor counts: destroying evidence and distributing “harmful matter” to a juvenile, the Los Angeles Times reports. He was acquitted of two counts of child annoyance, or conduct motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in a minor.
Montes de Oca was remanded into custody after the verdict was read, and prosecutors said he was being held on $100,000 bail; he faces up to 18 months in jail, and his sentencing hearing is scheduled for Friday.
According to the Times, in September 2015, the officer met a then-16-year-old girl who was a cadet in the LAPD’s Community Youth program, and prosecutors alleged that through October 2015, Montes de Oca sought an inappropriate relationship with the girl, sending her text messages and other missives via social media.
When his mistreatment of the girl was disclosed, he tried to delete messages and photos from the phone and computer and tried to get the girl to erase any evidence of his correspondence with her, according to the city attorney’s office.
Montes de Oca was arrested at the LAPD’s downtown headquarters in August.
Lou Shapiro, the defense attorney representing Montes de Oca, told the Times that his client did not dispute that he inappropriately texted the girl or destroyed evidence; the key issue was whether he was guilty of the two charges of child annoyance, which carry a stiffer penalty, and of which he was ultimately acquitted.
“Defense expert Dr. Sanjay Sahgal testified that for a 31-year-old male to be sexually attracted to a 16-year-old postpubescent female was not abnormal or unnatural from a clinical point of view,” Shapiro said. “[Sahgal] conceded that it was not normal from a moral point of view.”
Gross. It is entirely understandable that a defense attorney has to make statements that support his client, but the defense expert’s saying that a grown, 31-year-old man sexually objectifying a 16-year-old girl is normal is a bit much. The jury going along with it further demonstrates how far we have to go in this rape culture in which we live.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer did not hold back on his criticism of Montes de Oca, and after the verdict was announced, he released a statement condemning the officer’s actions.
“This was an egregious breach of trust by an LAPD officer responsible for supervising student cadets,” Feuer said in a statement. “It is essential to hold the officer accountable for taking advantage of his position to victimize a minor. Our cadets commit to public service. They deserve our respect and our protection.”
Montes de Oca is a nine-year veteran of the LAPD, and he was immediately relieved of his duties when the department learned of his actions. The LAPD criminal investigation into the allegations led to Tuesday’s conviction, according to a department statement.
Under state law, the personnel records and disciplinary history of police officers are kept private, so it is unclear what, if any, discipline Montes de Oca faced from the LAPD and whether he is still employed with the department.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.