On Tuesday, attorney Michael Rains claimed at a press conference that the woman known as “Celeste Guap” instigated contact with Bay Area officers. She’s the teen at the center of a scandal that has Oakland police officers facing criminal charges and professional disciplinary actions.
Rains said that Guap initiated Facebook friendships with the officers and began “graphic” conversations. He said some officers stopped communicating with her, but others continued to converse with Guap and their subsequent actions are now being charged as crimes. He called these officers’ actions “unfortunate” and “regrettable.”
This came moments after a retired Oakland police sergeant’s scheduled arraignment on a charge relating to the Guap scandal was postponed.
Rains normally represents Oakland police officers in union arbitration hearings and is famous for representing BART police officer Johannes Mehserle and the Oakland Riders, but filled in during the absence of the retired sergeant’s lawyer. The officer did not attend the arraignment to enter a plea on the charge of one misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse. Rains told the court the officer currently lives in Texas. Judge Jacob Blea III rescheduled the arraignment for October 19.
The scandal surfaced after the suicide last September of Oakland police officer Brendon O’Brien, who allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with Guap while she was underage. The officer left a suicide note, which prompted an internal affairs investigation led by the Oakland Police Department (OPD). In May, OPD spokesperson Officer Johnna Watson announced the department was investigating three officers. The following month, Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent resigned after serving for three years. Two other replacements stepped down shortly afterward, leaving the position open. The city is now searching for a new police chief.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has filed charges against three Oakland officers, one Livermore officer who has resigned, and a Contra Costa sheriff’s deputy who has also resigned. According to a September press release from O’Malley’s office, she will also file charges against two more Oakland police officers, one of whom has resigned.
Arraignments for the officers started two weeks ago, just one week after Guap’s attorneys filed claims against the City of Oakland and the police department. Last Friday, attorneys Cabral Bonner and Pamela Price announced they filed more claims against several more Bay Area entities, including the cities of Livermore, San Francisco, and Richmond, as well as Alameda County, requesting $6 million for each officer who had sexual contact with their client. They also said they plan to file a claim against Contra Costa County.
Rains said at Tuesday’s press conference that he believes that officers who had sexual contact with Guap fell below the high standards demanded of a police officer. But he said she enticed the officers into relations. According to Rains, Guap initiated contact via Facebook, speaking of aspirations to work in law enforcement, then started inappropriate conversations.
“Then at some point in time the pattern seemed to be that she would start talking in more graphic terms to the officers,” Rains said. “Some officers that I’m aware of at that point in time discontinued any contact with her, which I think was the proper response.”
Rains said all officers should have stopped speaking to her at that point. He also said he thinks Guap was exploited by people outside of the law enforcement agencies connected to the scandal. “This woman has been exploited by certainly more than these police officers,” Rains said.
Rains said that Guap’s alleged initiation of contact with the officers is not a defense. “I’m just pointing out that these are not officers who saw somebody, that they said, ‘This young woman is somebody that I want to strike up a relationship with,'” he said.
Rains added, “The contact was made by her to begin with.”
Rains said the cases he’s examined in which officers were charged with engaging in lewd acts will be hard to prove because it “requires someone to have witnessed the conduct that they were offended by.”
Guap’s attorneys could not be reached by telephone or email by press time.
According to the legal claim they filed against the City of Oakland and the OPD, O’Brien and other officers and deputies “exploited [Guap] when she was a minor and continuing into 2016 after she turned 18, providing her protection and information about police business for sexual favors.”
The retired officer’s arraignment originally scheduled for Tuesday would have been the fourth related to the sex scandal.
On September 30, Contra Costa Sheriff’s Deputy Ricardo Perez pleaded not guilty to one count of felony oral copulation with a minor and two misdemeanor counts of engaging in a lewd act in public.
Last month Oakland officer Brian Bunton pleaded not guilty to one felony count of obstruction of justice and one misdemeanor count of engaging in prostitution.
Livermore police officer Daniel Black’s arraignment for misdemeanor charges ranging from engaging in prostitution to furnishing alcohol to a minor was also scheduled for Tuesday, but he didn’t appear in court. His attorney Fatima Silva requested that he should not appear on grounds that he has been charged with misdemeanors, rather than felonies. Silva entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Pretrial hearings for Black are scheduled for October 24.
An arraignment for another Oakland officer, which was scheduled for today, has been tentatively set for October 21, said Deputy District Attorney Sabrina Farrell via phone Wednesday.