A Los Angeles County sheriff’s sex-crimes investigator was charged Wednesday with raping and tying up a 14-year-old girl he met as part of his job.
Neil David Kimball, appearing in a Ventura County courthouse, was also charged with dissuading a witness by force or threat. The deputy is accused of trying to intimidate the girl from reporting the crime, officials said. The charges include a special circumstance allegation that the victim was bound. Kimball pleaded not guilty.
The alleged attack took place in November 2017 in Ventura County, prosecutors said.
Kimball, 45, could face 19 years to life in prison if convicted of the crimes, said Ventura County Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Michael Schwartz. The 20-year department veteran was taken into custody Friday after a monthlong investigation, officials said. He was relieved of duty with pay on Saturday after the department’s internal criminal investigations bureau began looking into a complaint about him by a member of the public.
Kimball had been at a medical facility, away from the special victims bureau, since August, said Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida. A colleague at the unit who took over some of his criminal investigations learned of the accusation against Kimball on Oct. 10 after contacting people involved in the deputy’s cases.
Benjamin Maserang, Kimball’s public defender, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
News of Kimball’s arrest prompted the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office to launch a review of past criminal cases that may have relied on the deputy’s testimony. Kimball was listed as a potential witness in 977 criminal cases, said Shiara Dávila-Morales, a spokeswoman for the office.
It is unclear how many of those cases involved sex crimes.
Kimball’s arrest also raises questions about the selection process for detectives assigned to the Sheriff’s Department’s special victims bureau, which handles highly sensitive cases that can involve child victims.
A few years before he joined the elite sex crimes unit in 2013, Kimball was investigated for sexual battery but was not charged with a crime.
In the earlier case, a woman told the Sheriff’s Department in February 2009 that Kimball, while on duty, had grabbed her hand several months before and tried to make her touch his genitals, according to a memo from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
“If there was a hint — a hint — of any type of sexual harassment or abuse, even if you may not have proof, why are you promoting that person to the sex-crimes unit?” said Patti Giggans, the chair of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission.
Giggans, who is also the executive director of Peace Over Violence, an organization that aids survivors of sexual abuse, said she plans to raise her concerns about the screening process for sex-crimes investigators at an upcoming meeting of the oversight body.
The Sheriff’s Department has said in a statement that it is investigating the process that led to Kimball’s promotion, noting that prosecutors found insufficient evidence in the incident reported in 2009 and decided against charging him. Nishida said detectives normally go through a specialized testing procedure.
Dávila-Morales, of the district attorney’s office, said prosecutors had not been disclosing the 2009 investigation to attorneys in cases in which Kimball was a potential witness. She said that under a new policy that the office recently adopted, information about the 2009 allegations could be considered for disclosure to defendants.
Under the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady vs. Maryland, prosecutors are obligated to alert defendants to evidence that could aid the defense, including information that could undermine an officer’s credibility.
The deputy was moved from a downtown Los Angeles lockup to a Ventura County jail on Wednesday. His bail was set at $2 million. His next scheduled court date is Dec. 18.
Times staff photographer Mel Melcon contributed to this report