SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former San Diego police officer accused of trying to elicit sexual favors from seven women he pulled over in the Gaslamp District was a "predator" preying on women in short skirts and high heels, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Following closing arguments, jury deliberations began in the trial of Anthony Arevalos, who faces more than 19 years behind bars if convicted of 21 felony counts, including assault under the color of authority, sexual battery by restraint, soliciting or receiving a bribe and false imprisonment by force or fear.
The 18-year SDPD veteran was fired after allegations came to light in March that he tried to make a deal with women he stopped and sexually assaulted three of them. Most of the stops in question were for driving under the influence and happened between September 2009 and March of this year.
"The defendant is a predator," Deputy District Attorney Sherry Thompson told the jury in her rebuttal closing argument. The prosecutor said Arevalos, 41, "used the Gaslamp like a playground to stop people as he saw fit," thus meeting women he wouldn't have otherwise.
Thompson urged jurors to focus on whether Arevalos represented to the women he stopped that he could be influenced to make their ticket or arrest "go away."
The prosecutor said Arevalos abused his authority and took advantage of his victims.
"He cheated and thought he could get away with it, and he got caught," she said.
Thompson told jurors that Arevalos asked the women "What can you do for me?" and "What can you offer to get out of a DUI?"
Arevalos used the bribes to get "a peek, a touch, even a feel" on women he pulled over, she said. "That's what it was worth to him."
Thompson said Arevalos sexually assaulted a woman identified as Jane Doe in a downtown 7-Eleven bathroom after pulling her over for not using her turn signal after a Mardi Gras celebration last March 8.
He subsequently told her he would make a DUI "go away," the prosecutor said.
"This has to be between you and I," Arevalos told Jane Doe later in a recorded call made with the help of police.
Before the sexual assault, Arevalos had the woman give him her panties to make him feel good, Thompson said.
In the recorded call, Arevalos told Jane Doe "You handled it (the situation) very well, very well. I wanted to please you in every way, every way."
In other stops, Arevalos kept women at the scene much longer than was needed, the prosecutor told the jury.
Thompson said one woman told Arevalos she didn't have any money, and the officer responded by saying that wasn't what he was looking for.
"This officer had one thing in mind, and it was sexual in nature," the prosecutor said.
Arevalos had one woman drive around the corner after a stop when she said she would "show him something," a promise she broke when she gave the officer a bogus phone number, Thompson said.
The defendant slid his hands down the pants of another woman he stopped for DUI when he was putting her in handcuffs, the prosecutor said. Afterward, Arevalos said to her, "Easy, easy, you're in good hands," and also cupped the woman's breast and told her, "You should have said, `Officer spank me,"' Thompson said.
The defendant also stuck his hand down another woman's pants and had her flash her breasts after asking if they were real, Thompson alleged.
On the way to jail, Arevalos told another woman he arrested for DUI, "If you didn't have a roommate, things would be different," the prosecutor said.
Thompson said all seven victims testified truthfully about what happened to them.
"This is not a coincidence. This is a crime," the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Gretchen von Helms told the jury in her closing argument on Wednesday that there was reasonable doubt on many of the charges, saying some counts could be construed as misdemeanor conduct.
The attorney said Arevalos was friendly to the women he pulled over and did not use force of fear to detain them.
Von Helms said most of the alleged victims were drunk and their testimony exaggerated.
"Alcohol emboldens you," the defense attorney said.
She said most of the women came forward after the allegations against Jane Doe came to light.
"If someone does a crime to you, you call," von Helms said.
The attorney said some of the alleged victims sought benefits for their testimony, such as getting their DUI cases dismissed, while some have a vested interest in the outcome of the criminal case because they have filed claims against the city seeking monetary damages.
Von Helms said Jane Doe was controlling the situation after being pulled over by Arevalos and "used everything in her arsenal to get out of this ticket."
The attorney said the sex between Jane Doe and Arevalos was consensual.