L.A. County sheriff’s deputy under criminal investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with woman seeking aid

A woman says she wanted help from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department for protection from her ex-husband, but she says a sheriff's deputy instead pursued her for sex.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

The mother of three said she walked into the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s station desperate for protection from her ex-husband.

She’d been turned away on previous occasions because she lacked proof that her former spouse violated a restraining order, she said.

This time, a deputy in the front office said he would help.

The deputy wrote down his personal phone number and told the woman to call him the next time her ex-husband showed up at her house, she said. Soon, she and the deputy began a correspondence. She alleges that he repeatedly sent her lewd messages and pressured her to have sex under the pretense that he would provide law enforcement assistance.


The deputy, Josh Clark, was suspended from duty and is now under criminal investigation tied to the woman’s claim of sexual battery. Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators presented findings to prosecutors in September, officials confirmed. The District Attorney’s office is considering whether to file charges, said Greg Risling, a spokesman for the agency.

Capt. Darren Harris, a sheriff’s spokesman, said Clark has not been arrested. The deputy, a 12 -year veteran of the department, has been on paid administrative leave since January, 2017, Harris said.

“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department expects all of its members to hold themselves to the highest ethical and professional standards at all times,” Harris said in a statement.

Maureen Okwuosa, an attorney for Clark, said the deputy acknowledges knowing the woman but contends her allegations are “not truthful.” Okwuosa declined further comment.

The Times does not generally identify people who say they’ve been victims of sexual violence.

The woman’s claims are spelled out in a civil lawsuit she filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last week against Clark and the Sheriff’s Department, alleging sexual battery and emotional distress. She also said the agency didn’t investigate and arrest her ex-husband until an employee at the Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley heard about her experience and reported it to authorities.


Harris said the department began an immediate investigation upon learning of the woman’s allegations.

“We take all matters of this nature seriously,” he said. “We cannot provide more specific information at this time due to the potential for future legal proceedings.”

According to the woman’s lawsuit, sheriff’s investigators interviewed her in January 2017 and collected evidence from her mobile phone.

Clark was the only deputy working in the Santa Clarita Valley station’s front office when the woman walked in on Dec. 12, 2016, to file a report about her ex-husband’s repeated violations of a restraining order, she claimed. Clark, unlike other deputies who’d heard the woman’s story, listened to her and told her to call him personally, promising he could respond more quickly than if she were to call the station directly, she said in the lawsuit.

The same day, the woman sent Clark a text message saying that her ex-husband visited her house. Late that night, Clark sent her messages asking her about her personal life and her interest in sex, according to the woman.

Over the next several days, Clark told the woman he’d looked up her address and planned to visit her, she said. She resisted the advances, but he eventually showed up at her residence, where he kissed her and pressed her hand against his genitals, she claimed. He persisted in sending sexually explicit images and messages, she said.


The woman said she finally gave in to Clark’s overtures by driving to his house in Palmdale and engaging in sexual conduct with him, believing he would help her. In the end, Clark didn’t provide any substantive law enforcement assistance, she said.

The woman and her attorney, Harout Messrelian, did not respond to requests for comment.

Sheriff’s Department policy bars deputies from engaging in sexual misconduct and from “immoral conduct” in personal and work-related affairs.

Twitter: @mayalau