When the unspeakable and the unimaginable occurs; you’re a young female and you’ve just been pulled over by a police officer and you have no idea why? As he approaches the driver’s side of her car, all seems normal when he asks for her drivers license, registration and proof of insurance.
However, during the course of this traffic stop the officer under the guise of suspecting drugs searched the suspect and “touched the women’s breasts and genital areas”.
This unspeakable and unimaginable event occurred back in 1999 by a once respected Palo Alto police detective. Some accounts allege, that detective Luis Verbera, during the course of his employment may have raped up to six unsuspecting female motorists during the course of his 9 year career until the day he was finally caught.
When the women initially complained about the officer’s sexual contact during the booking process, law enforcement was “not at all interested in hearing her story.”
When cop’s become sexual predators with a badge
It was only until a local newspaper printed a page one story that the phones apparently began ringing off the hook. The then Daily News editor Dave Price relates;
“You don’t know the half of it. When Verbera was busted, then-police chief Pat Dwyer told me that there were only two women who had filed complaints against Verbera.
That didn’t make sense, since sex offenders typically have many more victims before they’re caught. So I put a headline on page 1 that suggested other victims of Verbera call the D.A. I guess the phone began ringing. Other victims came forward and Verbera was eventually convicted on charges involving four women.
Now here’s what’s interesting. Anybody who grabbed four women off the street, confined them against their will, and had sex with them, would be charged with crimes such as rape and kidnapping.
They would be facing felonies, and decades in prison. And that’s exactly how it should be. Instead, Verbera got a year in the county jail.
You know how county jail goes. You report and, if they have room, you move in. More likely, you get an ankle bracelet or get assigned to some weekend cleanup crews.
Let me remind you what Verbera did. He was on duty, in uniform, when he pulled women over on the streets of Palo Alto. He made up a bogus reason for pulling them over. He threatened them, put them in handcuffs in the back of his patrol car, and then drove them to places where he violated them sexually.
In any other situation, that would be rape-kidnap. In Palo Alto, that was a year in the county jail.
BTW, the judge who sentenced Verbera, Charles W. Hayden, is (was — might be dead???) a guy who liked to ride motorcycles and hang out with cops. He lives (lived) in Mountain View’s Farley St. neighborhood.
This creepy judge was so protective of Verbera that when he realized we had a reporter at his sentencing, he detained everybody in the courtroom (including my reporter/photographer, Emily Richmond), so that Verbera could leave without being photographed or questioned by the press.
Of course, I filed a complaint, but it was of no use since Hayden was on the verge of retirement. No accountability.”
Trust worthiness of police called into question
In matters of police accountability, prosecutorial discretion and the overall trustworthiness of our judicial system, who is the jury going to believe, the police, the person in the orange jumpsuit or the average citizen?
I think we all know too well the answers to that question when the Police, the District Attorney’s office are allowed to investigate sex crimes committed by one of their own with little or no oversight and were the outcome often results in leniency or with almost little jail time as we will see.
As in the case of Ex-Palo Alto cop Luis Verbrea sentenced to one year for fondling women and the most recent account of the Menlo Park cop caught while on the job with a prostitute, a sex crime and where Assistant Santa Clara County District Attorney Rob Baker refused to prosecute.
By all accounts, sexual assaults by law enforcement officials have been occurring nationally at an astonishingly level. In one report, prepared by the Cato Institute, a public policy research organization which tracts police misconduct; released in its 2010 annual report listed, “sexual misconduct was the second most common form of misconduct reported.”
It just so happens that Assistant Santa Clara County District Attorney Rob Baker was engaged in a another sex crime and plea deal scandal involving a former cop which suggests a pattern of protection for law enforcement officials by the Santa Clara District Attorneys Office.
Pattern of protection for law enforcement officials
SUNNYVALE – The Placerville resident and former El Dorado County sheriff`s deputy Jon Paul Svilich, 64, charged with nine counts of child molestation in the 1970s, pled “no contest” to all nine charges in the Santa Clara County Superior Court in Sunnyvale on Friday during a pretrial conference.
Superior Court Judge Jean Wetenkamp sentenced Svilich to 7 years, 8 months in prison. Svilich had faced a possible 15 years in prison if the case had gone to trial. The trial was scheduled to be held on April 8. “The de-fense attorney and I talked about the case.
We agreed to settle the case,” said Rob Baker, deputy district attorney in Santa Clara County. Svilich was convicted of molesting three 8- to 11-year-old girls 27 years ago, with six of the offenses committed at his former residence in Sunnyvale, and three in Sonora in Tuolumne County while visiting friends, said Baker.
The victims, now in their mid-30s, had testified at a preliminary hearing held in early-March. Two are members of Svilich`s extended family and the third is a family friend.
“I conferred with each of the three victims on the case to see how they felt about it and each of them was satisfied with the result of the proposed disposition, so I felt comfortable settling the case at that point,” said Baker.
All Svilich`s charges were for incidents that took place before he moved to El Dorado County in 1980, according to Baker. The episodes took place between 1974 and 1979, according to court documents.
Svilich was a Santa Clara County sheriff`s deputy in the 1960s and 1970s and grew up in San Jose. He joined the El Dorado County Sheriff`s Department in 1980. During his 21 years in El Dorado County, of which 13 were spent in Placerville, Svilich was a member of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce, was on the Diplomatic Corps, was a member of Hangtown Posse and served on the board of directors of the Northern California Peace Officers Association.
Now, in addition to serving time, Svilich is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, and this two-time sheriff`s deputy will not be allowed to carry firearms, according to Baker.
Svilich had originally denied the charges, according to court documents. Although Svilich`s attorney didn`t return phone calls, Baker said he could easily speculate on the reason for Svilich`s admission of guilt.
“The evidence was very strong,” said Baker. “The three victims testified at a preliminary trial and their testimony was very convincing. Each testimony corroborated with the others.
“It`s very clear that this man committed these terrible acts to these poor women when they were just little girls.”
Painful reminder continues to linger – Recent email received
I was one of the victims of Jon Svilich, retired Deputy Sheriff for Santa Clara and El Dorado County Sheriff’s Dept. His released from prison, after serving only 18 months of an 8 year sentence because the US Supreme Court overturned the 1994 rule that allowed for prosecution of a sexual predator many years after the crime, DEVASTATED me.
In one of my “moments” when I get obsessive and do my internet searches, I located an article from the Placerville Newspaper, “The Mountain Democrat” that was written AFTER he was released early and subsequently allowed to resume his life as if NOTHING had ever happened.
All the requirements of being a sexual predator (having to register for life as such and NOT being able to carry firearms, ever) were simply washed away as if it never happened. Anyway, the article was written by a small town journalist who, obviously, thought highly of Mr. Svilich. It basically called me a liar and said he was indeed innocent. If he was so INNOCENT, why did he plead “no contest”? If I was being accused of something I didn’t do, I’d be screaming and fighting the WHOLE time and NEVER would I admit wrongdoing.
In any case, I am still dealing with the trauma and I have decided the ONLY way I can get passed this is to go after him, again. I was shut down, last time, trying to do it by the book. I’m currently trying to locate legal assistance so that I can, possibly, go after Mr. Svilich’s pension. I have no other recourse.
If you have any recommendations for legal assistance, I’d love a point in the right direction. I cannot let this go, any longer and I refuse to let this man live in peace because he’s caused so much distress in my life. It’s just not fair or right. Any help is appreciated.
A shocking sobering reminder of DA backroom plea deals handed out to former cops
Jon Paul Svilich – “I conferred with each of the three victims on the case to see how they felt about it and each of them was satisfied with the result of the proposed disposition, so I felt comfortable settling the case at that point,” said Baker. 18 months served for child molestation.
Luis Verbrea – “Deputy District Attorney Joanne McCracken stands behind the plea agreement, saying that it was in the best interest of the women involved”. “One-year jail term”, and “work furlough program”.
Vinh Nguyen – Ordinary citizen – “I’m horrified that somebody can be accused of such a heinous attack . . . and then have the DNA exonerate him,” Street said. “Were it not for the DNA, he could be facing a life term.”
As noted by former editor of the The Daily News, Dave Price, Mr. Price suggests the existence of a two tiered justice system. One for law enforcement and one for the ordinary citizen. Where he states;
“In any other situation, that would be rape-kidnap…and decades in prison. And that’s exactly how it should be. Instead, Verbera got a year in the county jail.”
Commenting on the apparent discriminatory justice system, one for cops and one for the ordinary citizen former Santa Clara County Assistant Public Defender Attorney Aram James sums it up – “You have laid out the issues with precision –a two tiered system continues to account for much injustice in our system–plea bargaining without standards applicable to all regardless of station in life.
As your comments infer it is a systemic problem which will take courageous citizen journalists like you to change. Keep up the extraordinary work. We must push for a police crimes unit in each jurisdiction within each DA’s office –we must make it an issue at election time–and make certain the community understands that a double standard re the exercise of prosecutorial is unacceptable and that we do have a say in how our local DA exercises his discretion.”
We forwarded the victims email received to Chief Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen including Assistant Chief Santa Clara District Attorney Jay Boyarsky and Assistant Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Robert Baker for comment. I’m afraid that moment will never arrive!
We beleive the DA’s office continues to demonstrate a pattern of overbalanced lite sentencing in favor of …”When cop’s become sexual predators with a badge” measured to the same jail time given to an ordinary citizen having committed an equal crime. Decades in prison!!