A former Los Angeles police officer accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in the department's cadet program was held over for trial Thursday on charges of possessing a cache of assault weapons at his San Bernardino County home.
Robert Cain, 31, was charged with 10 felony weapons offenses after police recovered more than 100 weapons during a search of his Rancho Cucamonga residence in June. The search was conducted after Cain was personally arrested by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on suspicion of having unlawful sex with a 15-year-old girl enrolled in the LAPD's cadet program.
Cain is charged with possessing five rifles that are considered assault weapons under California law. At a preliminary hearing Thursday morning, LAPD Det. Eric Good testified that the weapons had been modified with flash suppressors, which make it harder to detect a weapon's muzzle flare, pistol grips and other items that would cause them to be classified as assault weapons.
Police recovered two "bump stocks" at Cain's home, devices that can increase a gun's rate of fire and make it similar to an automatic weapon, Good said.
Bump stocks, which are illegal to own under California law, became a topic of national conversation after investigators revealed a man used the devices during a shooting rampage that left 58 people dead at a Las Vegas music festival earlier this month. The devices are legal to own under federal law, but the Las Vegas attacks have led advocates, legislators and the National Rifle Assn. to ask lawmakers to reconsider the danger they pose.
Cain, a 10-year-veteran of the department who was last assigned to 77th Street Division, resigned last month, according to Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman.
Cain was silent for most of the hearing, remaining seated and handcuffed as he wore a green jail jump suit. He briefly turned to speak with his mother, who was the only person present in the gallery, before he was politely rebuked by Superior Court Judge Bridgid McCann.
Defense attorney Bill Seki argued that prosecuting Cain on the weapons charges is "pre-mature" because the weapons that were seized became illegal under state law only as of Jan. 1, 2017. Gun owners whose firearms had been reclassified as assault weapons were supposed to be immune from enforcement actions until the state Department of Justice updated its website to allow gun owners to register those modified firearms as assault weapons.
Seki contended that the website was not functioning at the time of Cain's arrest. But McCann determined there was sufficient evidence to allow the case to proceed to trial.
Cain pleaded not guilty to the weapons charges earlier this year.
"Technically, they should not have done anything," Seki said, referring to the prosecution.
Cain, an Army veteran and gun enthusiast, was in the process of modifying the weapons to comply with the change in state law at the time of his arrest, Seki said. The bump stocks were not attached to firearms when they were discovered, the attorney said.
Police recovered more than 70 rifles during the search of Cain's home, Good said.
Cain's arrest came as part of a widening scandal involving the theft of LAPD vehicles and other equipment by members of the department's cadet program. Using the stolen LAPD cruisers, some cadets led officers on a wild chase through South L.A. that ended in a pair of car crashes in June.
Seven cadets were arrested as part of a subsequent investigation, which also revealed evidence of a sexual relationship between Cain and the 15-year-old girl, investigators have said.
Criminal proceedings against Cain in Los Angeles County remain frozen while the weapons case plays out in San Bernardino County. His initial appearance on charges of oral copulation with a minor and lewd acts with a juvenile was delayed in July, and an arraignment has yet to be rescheduled, according to Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
No other officers have been accused of wrongdoing, Rubenstein said.
The LAPD has yet to present cases against the former cadets who were arrested in June, Risling said.
The scandal that led to Cain's arrest sparked a wide-ranging review of the cadet program and calls for an audit of all of the department's youth initiatives. The cadet program was suspended at 77th Street and Pacific Divisions, where the teenagers involved in the thefts were assigned.