LOS ANGELES — Jose Rigoberto Sanchez, a deputy with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, pleaded not guilty to rape, kidnapping, and bribery under the color of law during a hearing this morning.
Sanchez, 28, a seven-year employee of the department assigned to a patrol unit in the L.A. suburb of Palmdale, was arrested on July 29, following a six-month investigation conducted by the District Attorney's Justice System Integrity Division. The DA's office is charging Sanchez with 11 felony counts:
• Two counts of soliciting a bribe
• One count each of kidnapping to commit another crime
• Rape by fear or duress
• Rape under color of authority
• Sexual penetration by a foreign object
• Sexual penetration under color of authority
• Sodomy by fear or duress, sodomy under color of authority
• Oral copulation by fear or duress
• Oral copulation under color of authority
The charges stem from two women Sanchez pulled over in September 2010. One woman claims Sanchez offered not to arrest the woman on an outstanding warrant in exchange for sex. Sanchez then allegedly instructed the woman to get in the back of his patrol car, drove her to desolate spot in the Palmdale desert, and raped and sodomized her.
"Two nights later, he pulled over another female on suspicion of [driving under the influence]," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in statement. Sanchez also "allegedly solicited a bribe in the form of sexual activity."
According to the District Attorney's office, the investigation into Sanchez was launched after Sanchez's alleged rape victim called the Sherriff the morning after the incident. Sanchez was put on administrative leave with pay. The Sheriff's office turned the information over to the Los Angeles's District Attorney in 2011. Sanchez's administrative pay came to an end after his arrest last week.
The Sheriff's department and the DA office have come under criticism for taking 30 months to charge Sanchez.
"Obviously we're not happy about it, and I'm not happy about it," Sheriff Lee Baca told KTLA last week.
"We have to recognize that those types of investigations have to be done the right way," Baca said.
After pleading not guilty this morning, Sanchez returned to lock up in lieu of $1.5 million bail. If convicted, Sanchez faces a life term in state prison. He returns to court for a scheduling hearing on Sept. 16.