Woman Sues City, Former Officer She Accused


A woman who accused a police officer of sexually molesting her in a closed police substation filed a lawsuit this week against the city and the officer, who has since been fired and awaits criminal trial.

The officer, 38-year-old Michael Cabrera, was charged last April with felony assault, sexual battery and false imprisonment, according to court records. He pleaded not guilty.

In May, Cabrera was fired from his job of 15 years following an internal investigation, Police Lt. Bob Helton said.


On Jan. 5, 1995, a patrol officer approached the woman, then 18 or 19 years old, and her boyfriend as they were arguing at a Santa Ana bus stop. The officer told the woman to sit in his patrol car while he talked to the man, who told the officer that she had been using drugs, said Richard Farnell, the woman’s attorney in the civil case. The woman denied using drugs, he said.

The police officer took the woman to a closed substation to which he has a key, telling her that he needed to test her for drugs, Farnell said.

The officer “takes her inside the substation and tells her that she has to disrobe,” Farnell said. “She’s scared and doesn’t know any better, so she disrobes. She thinks that he has a right to do this.”

The officer allegedly ordered the woman to lie on the floor, where he sexually assaulted and battered her, according to the complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court.

Afterward, he drove her to or near her home. On the way back, the officer gave the woman his phone number and told her that he wanted to take her to lunch, Farnell said.

“Within the next few days, she tells her brother,” Farnell said. “He reported it to another police officer, who reported it to his supervisor, triggering an investigation.”


If convicted of all charges, Cabrera faces a maximum of four years in prison, prosecutors said.

The woman sought a lawyer several months ago after learning that the criminal case against the officer would not address “the damage part” of the case, Farnell said.

“She didn’t know what her rights were,” Farnell said. “And this officer took advantage of that.”