Burbank police officer pleads guilty to lying to federal authorities

A Burbank police officer pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to federal authorities who were investigating an alleged plot involving his girlfriend and her estranged husband.

The 43-year-old officer, Anthony Valento, appeared in U.S. District Court Thursday afternoon to enter the guilty plea for making false statements, which was part of an agreement.

"This is what he would've been convicted of," said Valento's attorney Dale Rubin.

That same day, his girlfriend, Gayle Bassett, who was sitting next to Valento in court Thursday, agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to deprive her husband, Jeremy Bassett, of his constitutional rights by attempting to have him "prosecuted for a restraining order violation without probable cause," court records show.

She was initially charged with one count of lying to federal investigators during the probe. Gayle Bassett's plea agreement includes no prison time, though a judge must still agree to the deal.

Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse said he had not yet reviewed Valento's court proceedings, and therefore could not make a detailed statement.

"We would, however, like to reassure the community that this situation involved criminality by one Burbank police officer," LaChasse said. "The Burbank Police Department immediately initiated an administrative investigation when the possibility of misconduct was evident."

Valento was indicted in November on charges that he agreed to try to influence prosecutors to reduce or drop criminal charges against Jeremy Bassett in exchange for money for Gayle Bassett as part of the pair's divorce settlement, and later lied to federal investigators. The charges against Jeremy Bassett were dropped in October.

The indictment also claimed that he defrauded the city of Burbank by allegedly falsifying records, and disabled his patrol car's GPS device to make it appear as though he was working when he was not.

Federal prosecutors, however, agreed to drop the remaining charges, including one count of federal program bribery and four counts of wire fraud, according to the plea agreement.

Valento is scheduled to be sentenced in May. The 17-year veteran of the Burbank Police Department agreed to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release, according to his plea deal, though at the sentencing, a judge can impose up to the maximum sentence of five years for the violation.

If that's the case, Valento can withdraw his plea.

Jeremy Bassett is suing Valento, along with the city of Burbank, alleging civil rights violations, including false arrest and malicious prosecution, records show.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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