One of Five Oakland Police Officers Charged in Sex Abuse Scandal Pleads Not Guilty to Charges - NBC Bay Area

One of Five Oakland Police Officers Charged in Sex Abuse Scandal Pleads Not Guilty to Charges

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    One of Five Oakland Police Officers Charged in Sex Abuse Scandal Pleads Not Guilty

    One of five Oakland police officers charged in connection with a sexual misconduct scandal pleaded not guilty Friday. Jodi Hernandez reports. (Published Friday, Sept. 23, 2016)

    One of five Oakland police officers charged in connection with a sexual misconduct scandal pleaded not guilty Friday.

    Brian Bunton, 40, is accused of warning Jasmine, a teenager who formerly self-identified as Celeste Guap, to stay away from an intersection known for prostitution because of an ongoing police operation. Investigators uncovered text messages between Jasmine and Bunton who went by the screen name "Superman."

    Arraigned on charges of felony obstruction of justice and engaging in prostitution, Bunton was the first of his colleagues to appear in court.

    Bunton didn't comment after the hearing, but his lawyer Dirk Manoukian told local media outlets that the father of two realized he's made mistakes.

    "He's the type of person that's remorseful for some of the decisions he made," Manoukian said. "There [have] already been consequences, so absolutely, he understands."

    Also on Friday, Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay announced disciplinary recommendations for nine Richmond police officers tied to Jasmine, who is at the center of a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Bay Area.

    According to the discipline letters, one Richmond police officer will be fired, one demoted, two suspended, and five reprimanded for their actions.

    The Richmond Police Department released a slew of discipline recommendations which Lindsay signed off on. According to city officials, the nine officers have already been sent the disciplinary letters.

    Each officer has 10 days to request a private hearing. After the private hearing, Richmond Police Chief Allwyn Brown will issue a recommendation to Lindsay, who will determine the final level of discipline.

    Under state law, officials aren't allowed to name the officers who will be disciplined.

    "The fact we've had to take these disciplinary actions is extremely disappointing to me and angers me as it should the public," Lindsay said.

    Officers in at least seven Bay Area law enforcement agencies have been under investigation in connection with the scandal. Prosecutors in San Francisco and Contra Costa County are still investigating and may file further criminal charges.

    The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has filed felony charges against two Oakland police officers and a Contra Costa sheriff's deputy. A former Oakland police sergeant and a former Livermore police officer have been charged with misdemeanors and two other Oakland police officers are also expected to face misdemeanor charges.

    The 19-year-old woman says she worked as a prostitute and exchanged sex with officers for money or protection from arrest. She says she has had sex with 30 northern California officers, four of them before she turned 18.

    Her attorney Pamela Price said the teen is no longer working as a prostitute. She is now receiving psychological care at Stanford University, she said.

    "It's a relief" that the case is finally "moving forward," Price said. Jasmine is glad to see the police officers implicated in the case being prosecuted, she added. 

    "She wants to see these officers held accountable," Price said. "She wants the system to go through the process and then she wants to be able to go on with her life."

    Meanwhile, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt slammed the police officers.

    "The City of Richmond has worked very hard to make the Richmond Police Department a national model for community-involved policing," he said. "I am both disappointed and outraged that the individual behavior of some Richmond police officers has brought discredit to the department and serves to undermine community trust.

    "I know that this outrage is shared by my colleagues on the Richmond City Council."

    The proposed disciplinary actions follow a thorough investigation that complied with the Police Officers' Bill of Rights. The investigation involved an examination of over 10,000 text messages and cell phone records, over 5,000 social media pages, and conversations with 45 people, according to official documents. Investigators logged 750 work hours in completing the investigation, including 13 hours of recorded, voluntary testimony from the teenage witness over the course of the interview sessions. The final investigative report contains 275 pages of findings.

    The Richmond Police Department's Office of Accountability, which led the investigation, identified eleven current and former police personnel involved in the misconduct. Two of the eleven officers had left the police department prior to the investigation.

    "I am sorry that the misconduct of these individuals has brought embarrassment to the City of Richmond and the Richmond Police Department," Brown said.

    Bay City News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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