Scott Marks 3:04 p.m., June 18
City to pay $675,000 to victim of sexual assault by former police officer Anthony Arevalos
The City continues to pay the female victims assaulted by former San Diego police officer Anthony Arrevalos. The newest payout will come Tuesday, when city councilmembers will be asked to authorize the city comptroller to issue a check to a San Diego woman for $675,000.
Of course, the settlement did not come without a fight from the City.
The assault occurred on October 22, 2010 when the woman pulled out of a parking garage on Fourth Avenue in downtown. That's when Arevalos turned on his police lights.
Arevalos questioned the Plaintiff and then, according to court documents, he “made personal and crude sexually suggestive remarks about [her] body and groped her breasts with his hand while she was sitting in her car with the car door open. Arevalos also said he was going to arrest her for DUI, but that she could avoid this if she showed her bare breasts to him and let him put his hand down her pants and touch her sexually.”
Five months later, during the investigation, the woman, known as Melissa W., was interviewed by San Diego Police Detective Steve Bernier. It was then that Bernier advised her to wait until after the criminal case was resolved before pursuing a civil case. She was not informed, however, that there was a six-month statute of limitations to file a claim with the City.
So, Melissa W. waited until November 2011, after she testified against Arevalos in court.
But on November 28, the City informed her that her claim had been rejected.
"The claim you presented to the Honorable Mayor and City Council of the City of San Diego on 11/15/2011, is being returned because it was not presented within the 6 (six) months after the event or occurrence as required by law," read the letter from a City claims representative.
Melissa W. proceeded with the case. She presented emails from Detective Bernier where he admitted telling her it was best to wait.
"I apologize," wrote Detective Bernier in a December 6 email. "I am not familiar with the statute of limitations on civil cases. I have seen cases where a victim has filed a civil suit and it has hurt the criminal case. I didn't intend on you missing the opportunity on filing a civil suit."
Despite the admission, from May 2012 to October 2012, the City made several attempts to have the case thrown out.
"In this case, there is no dispute the claim accrued on October 22, 2010," reads one such motion. "Thus, Plaintiff should have filed her government claim on or before April 22, 2011. She did not do so. If Plaintiff wishes to pursue her claim, she should have filed an application to file a late claim on or before October 22, 2011. However, she did not do so. Instead, she waited until April 17, 2012, to file an application for leave to file a late claim, which the City denied as untimely. (Compl. ¶ 24, Ex. 3.) Under these circumstances, this Court does not have jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s first claim for relief."
The judge agreed with the City on the timing, however, ruled that the Plaintiff's decision was influenced by a person of authority.
Now, after one year of legal wrangling, the City Attorney's office has given up and has agreed to pay $675,000 from the City's Public Liability Fund.