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Woman at center of Bay Area police sex crimes scandal will return to California to testify against cops

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The teenage woman whose allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of several police officers rocked the Bay Area law enforcement community will return to California to testify against them, her attorney said Wednesday.

Jasmine Abuslin, 19, of Richmond, was freed from the Martin County Jail in Florida on Wednesday morning after accepting a plea deal to settle allegations that she bit a security guard during a violent clash at a drug rehabilitation facility last month.

Pamela Price, an Oakland civil rights attorney who is representing Abuslin, said Abuslin now plans to return home, where she will serve as the key witness in the prosecution of at least seven current and former East Bay law enforcement officers.

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“We’re going home as soon as we can,” Price said at a news conference in Stuart, Fla.

She was originally arrested on a charge of felony aggravated battery, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison, but Florida prosecutors downgraded the charge to simple battery, a misdemeanor, earlier this week.

Richard Kibbey, the defense attorney representing Abuslin in Florida, said the plea deal stipulated that Abuslin would serve no more jail time and plead no contest to the misdemeanor charge.

Abuslin, who has previously used the pseudonym Celeste Guap, asserted during a television news interview earlier this year that she had had sex with at least a dozen Oakland police officers, and that some of the encounters occurred while she was underage. She also accused officers of leaking information to her about planned prostitution raids in exchange for sex.

The scandal soon widened to include accusations against members of four other East Bay law enforcement agencies.

The Times normally does not identify victims of sex crimes unless they come forward publicly. Abuslin appeared alongside her attorneys at Wednesday’s news conference.

“Jasmine is free,” said Charles Bonner, another Bay Area attorney representing the woman. “Celese Guap, as you’ve heard of, exists no more.”

Abuslin did not speak during the news conference, but her return to California is a key step in the potential prosecution of several officers linked to the scandal. Last week, Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy E. O’Malley announced that she would file charges against five current and former members of the Oakland Police Department, a Livermore police officer and a Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy. She said she was forced to delay the formal filing of charges, however, because Abuslin had been moved out of state.

Calls to the Alameda County district attorney’s office for comment were not immediately returned.

Abuslin’s move by Contra Costa County authorities to a drug rehabilitation facility in Florida has come under heavy criticism from O’Malley, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Abuslin’s attorneys. Price said her client does not have a drug problem, and accused the Richmond Police Department of engaging in witness tampering.

“The Richmond Police Department, and in particular, the leadership of that department, engaged in communication with a local agency here and brought her here under false pretenses,” Price said. “We have many lovely facilities in the Bay Area [and] throughout California, and the kind of treatment that this woman needs is not a drug rehab program. She is traumatized.”

Abuslin’s move to Florida was arranged last month by a victims advocate employed by the Contra Costa County district attorney’s office, according to Contra Costa County Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Doug McMaster. McMaster said the advocate worked out of Richmond police headquarters, an agency whose officers Abuslin has made claims against.

McMaster and Richmond Police Chief Allwyn Brown have both denied claims that Abuslin was moved to delay her testimony. A spokeswoman for the state victims compensation fund, which paid for the move, said she was barred by state law from discussing the case.

Price and other Oakland officials have called on California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris to open an independent investigation into both the scandal and the decision to move Abuslin to Florida. Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for Harris, did not rule out the possibility of a separate probe in a statement issued Wednesday.

“The allegations of police misconduct are extremely disturbing and an alarming breach of trust placed in law enforcement by the communities we are sworn to serve,” Ford said in an e-mailed statement. “Our office will continue to engage with local law enforcement on this case and will leave all options on the table for our potential involvement.”

Charges to be filed against the officers include acts of prostitution, lewd conduct and failure to report the abuse of a minor. Two men — Oakland Police Officer Giovani LoVerde and former Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Deputy Ricardo Perez — will also be charged with felony oral copulation with a minor, O’Malley said.

Price said Abuslin has been a victim of sex trafficking since she was 12, and said her client had sexual encounters with members of seven different Bay Area law enforcement agencies.

“The fact that she is alive today is a miracle,” Price said.

Four Oakland police officers have been fired and seven others were suspended in the wake of the scandal. Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent also resigned the same weekend the woman gave her televised interview.

An investigator with the Alameda County district attorney’s office was also fired, and Richmond police said earlier this week that several officers will be fired or disciplined as a result of the scandal. Abuslin also alleged she had had sexual encounters with Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, but an investigator told The Times earlier this year that an internal review did not uncover evidence of any crimes or violations of department rules.

O’Malley said her office’s investigation also uncovered sexual contact between officers and the woman that took place in Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Joaquin counties, though she has no jurisdiction to prosecute there. A San Joaquin County district attorney’s spokesman said his office has opened an investigation of Abuslin’s claims.

Upon her return to California, Abuslin plans to seek psychological treatment and hopes to begin taking classes that will enable her to pursue a career as a veterinarian, her attorney said.

“She’s going to create a life that every young woman should have,” Price said. “Jasmine is going to get a second chance.”

james.queally@latimes.com

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.

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UPDATES:

5:40 p.m.: This story was updated with information about the plea deal and a comment from the California attorney general’s office.

This story was first published at 2:30 p.m.


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