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LAPD officer charged with stealing police radio, failing to pay for baby stroller: 'We trusted her because she was a police officer'

LAPD officer charged with stealing police radio, failing to pay for baby stroller: 'We trusted her because she was a police officer'
The downtown headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department, shown in 2009. (Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles police officer pleaded not guilty Monday to a series of criminal charges, including theft of a police radio and an illegal search of a law enforcement database.

Prosecutors also allege that Jessica Guzzetti failed to pay for a baby stroller, according to a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Guzzetti, 27, entered the not-guilty plea in a Van Nuys courtroom, her first court appearance since she was charged July 25 with the three misdemeanor counts.

The officer could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, R. Alex Comley, told The Times that his client "acted without criminal intent."

"She tried to make things right and we're going to show this in court," Comley said. He declined further comment.

The first count alleges that Guzzetti stole an LAPD radio valued at $3,470.30 in 2013. Another count alleges that she accessed information from a Department of Justice computer database in 2014. Prosecutors also contend that Guzzetti failed to pay for the baby stroller in August 2015.

Jackie Robnett, who is listed in court records as the rightful owner of the baby stroller, told The Times that Guzzetti and her boyfriend responded to a Craigslist ad in 2015 for a stroller that retailed for about $1,200. Robnett said she was selling it for about $250.

Guzzetti and her boyfriend inspected the stroller and offered to pay for it with a check. Robnett said she doesn't normally accept checks in Craigslist transactions but made an exception.

"We trusted her because she was a police officer," Robnett said. "She said she was with LAPD and that made us comfortable."

When the check didn't go through, Robnett repeatedly tried to reach out to Guzzetti and her boyfriend for the payment or for the return of the stroller. But Guzzetti responded that she wanted to keep the stroller.

"I offered so many other options: PayPal, Venmo," Robnett said. "There's so many ways to transfer money."

With mounting frustration, Robnett learned that Guzzetti was working in a police station in the San Fernando Valley, called a supervisor there and reported the incident. She provided testimony to a detective with LAPD's internal affairs, she said.

Police later contacted Robnett and asked her to come to a station to see a stroller that had been recovered. But it was not the stroller Robnett said she had sold to Guzzetti and her boyfriend.

To date, Robnett has not received her stroller or money compensating her for the stroller. She was not informed that Guzzetti had been charged until a reporter contacted her Monday evening.

The prosecution of Guzzetti, a resident of Lancaster, is the latest twist in her LAPD career.

Guzzetti sued the city in January 2014, alleging she was sexually harassed by a supervisor in the LAPD's jail division and was retaliated against for spurning a supervisor's sexual advances.

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After complaining about the maltreatment, she was eventually reassigned to the Rampart Division, according to her complaint. There, she learned that her nickname was "the black widow" and that she had a reputation for complaining about officers who made sexual advances on her, according to the complaint.

Guzzetti contended in her lawsuit that fellow officers did not want to work with her as a partner, and that in roll call, colleagues laughed when a partner was assigned to her.

During her first day in the Rampart Division, according to the lawsuit, a female lieutenant told Guzzetti: "We heard about you. We heard you're trouble."

Guzzetti's attorney in the sexual harassment lawsuit, Greg Smith, later asked a judge to release him and his firm from the case.

"Differences have arisen in the handling of this matter which would prevent my office from ethically representing this plaintiff and making it impossible to diligently prosecute [Guzzetti's] claims," Smith wrote in a declaration filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Guzzetti later represented herself, but a judge dismissed the lawsuit after she failed to show up to two consecutive hearings, according to court records.

While on patrol in the Rampart Division — which covers Silver Lake, Echo Park, Westlake and the Pico-Union neighborhoods — Guzzetti was one of three officers who opened fire at 16-year-old Moises Palacios on the night of May 17, 2013. Palacios, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was armed with two knives, according to court papers.

Police said Palacios taunted officers, saying he would throw the knives toward them. Palacios purportedly stepped toward the officers and they opened fire. Ten gunshots struck the boy, mostly in the abdomen and chest, according to court papers.

The boy later told authorities he wanted police to kill him, according to the LAPD's review of the shooting.

Palacios survived his injuries after major surgery, which included the removal of parts of his small intestine, according to court papers.

Palacios later sued the city and the LAPD, naming Guzzetti and the two other officers. The case is pending in federal court.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

Twitter: @MattHjourno

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