Two California police officers are accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting four women while on duty.
James Nichols, 44, and Luiz Valenzuela, 43, are set to be arraigned Thursday in court for the alleged crimes, according to a statement released by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. The statement says the alleged sexual abuse began in 2008, when the two became partners:
Beginning in December 2008, after they became partners, and continuing through March 2011, the two men allegedly began sexually assaulting women at various locations, including in their police vehicle, prosecutors said. All four women were arrested at various times by the officers during narcotics-related offenses.
At the time the alleged assaults occurred, the victims were 19, 24, 25 and 34 years of age. Most, but not all, of the alleged sexual assaults occurred while the officers were on duty.
In at least one instance, Valenzuela is accused of pointing a gun at a victim.
The Los Angeles Police Department first opened an investigation into the officers in 2010, when a woman accused them of assaulting her. The department wasn't able to continue its probe because it couldn't find the alleged victim, but it reopened the investigation a year later when another woman came forward, according to police records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
All of the alleged victims had either been arrested previously or had worked as informants, the newspaper reported.
One woman said Nichols, a 12-year veteran of the force, and Valenzuela, a 15-year veteran, ordered her into their police car and drove her to a secluded area.
"Why don't you cut out that tough-girl crap," Valenzuela allegedly said, according to police records. At that point he "unzipped his pants and forced [her] head down toward his lap and physically held her head down," forcing her to perform oral sex, according to the warrant.
Both men have been charged with forcible rape, rape under color of authority and multiple sexual assault charges, according to the statement. Prosecutors are expected to ask that both men's bail be set at more than $3 million. Nichols and Valenzuela each face up to a life sentence in prison.