Prosecutors Thursday dropped charges against an Oakland police officer accused with several co-workers in a sprawling sex scandal that drew national attention last year, marking the fourth case in which charges against law enforcement officers implicated in the controversy have collapsed.
Alameda County Asst. Dist. Atty. Teresa Drenick said Thursday that her office will not pursue sex crime charges against Giovani LoVerde, who had been accused of felony oral copulation with a minor.
The charges against LoVerde and six other law enforcement officers stemmed from a sex scandal that rocked several East Bay departments last year, resulting in the firing of Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent.
In June 2016, a teenage Richmond, Calif., woman alleged she had sex with more than a dozen Oakland police officers, some of the encounters occurring when she was underage.
The woman, now 20, contended she also had sex or other inappropriate contact with officers from other police agencies. The Times generally does not name people who report being victims of sexual abuse.
But in recent weeks, a judge found there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges against Ricardo Perez, a former Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department employee, and Oakland police officer Brian Bunton.
Citing those rulings, prosecutors decided to drop charges against LoVerde, though they plan to appeal the ruling in Perez's case, according to Drenick.
"There exists a conflict in the law interpreting the criminal statutes that govern the crimes charged, and we have determined that we will seek an appellate remedy," Drenick said via email. "We are always mindful of how difficult it has been for the victim in these matters to testify in open court about her exploitation, and we made today's decision in close consultation with her."
Prosecutors last year dropped charges against Oakland police officer Warit Utappa because of insufficient evidence.
Earlier this year, retired Oakland police officer LeRoy Johnson pleaded no contest to charges that he failed to report the sexual abuse of the woman. Retired Livermore officer Dan Black pleaded no contest to one count of lewd conduct in public, but the charges will be dismissed after a year under the terms of his plea deal, provided he commits no other crimes, according to attorney Michael Cardozo, who represented both Black and LoVerde in their criminal cases.
The only pending case involves ex-Oakland police officer Tyrell Smith, who was charged with improperly searching a law enforcement database. Smith is expected to stand trial in 2018, Drenick said. Smith resigned from the Oakland Police Department last year.
Utappa and LoVerde are still employed by the Oakland Police Department, according to a department spokesman. LoVerde is currently on administrative leave, Cardozo said. Bunton is no longer employed by the department, according to a police spokesman.
Calls and emails to a spokesman for the city of Oakland and the attorney representing the woman at the center of the scandal were not returned.
LoVerde has repeatedly denied the accusations, according to Cardozo, who said the collapse of the prosecution's case calls into question many of the original allegations.