It was supposed to be a routine capture of a bail jumper facing drug charges.
Instead, prosecutors allege, a pair of gun-toting bail agents went from law enforcers to law breakers.
And now the duo, Donald Webber and Brian Walsh, are the ones out on bail, of $1 million and $220,000, respectively. Both men are accused of kidnapping, and Webber faces an additional charge of rape.
An Alhambra Superior Court judge could decide at a preliminary hearing Tuesday whether they will stand trial on the charges, which could lead to life sentences. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The charges stem from events beginning Feb. 15, when Webber and Walsh went to a house in Alhambra in search of the bail jumper, Jose Cabrera. Cabrera wasn't home but his girlfriend was and the two men took her into custody.
Webber and Walsh are not bounty hunters, working instead with insurance companies retained by bail bondsmen.
Prosecutors say the pair had the right to detain Cabrera's girlfriend. After all, they say, she was out on bail and the men caught her flushing plastic bags of rock cocaine down the toilet. But rather than taking her to jail, Webber and Walsh kept her until Cabrera was captured a day later.
"The issue is they had no business holding her overnight and forcing her to help them apprehend their bounty," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Philip Wojdak. "During that night, one of the defendants raped her."
"Absurd" is how Alvin Michaelson, Walsh's veteran criminal defense lawyer, describes the charges.
Walsh and Webber, as bail agents, had a right to revoke the woman's bail at any time, Michaelson said. Obviously, he said, the bail agents could not leave the woman behind while they searched for Cabrera, so they took her along. She brought her 3-year-old daughter and another man, who was asked to serve as a translator because she did not speak English, Michaelson said.
Walsh, 25, and Webber, 32, are charged with kidnapping the woman, the girl and the translator.
Michaelson said the men acted properly and even tipped off police. "My client called the Alhambra [police] watch commander to tell him they were entering the home," he said.
Prosecutors and police, however, in court papers paint a different picture of Walsh and Webber and their quest to nab Cabrera.
Cabrera, also known as Rogelio Cruz, and his girlfriend were arrested in November 2000 in San Bernardino County on suspicion of transportation and possession of cocaine and heroin. Cabrera was released on $100,000 bond, the woman on bail of $25,000. She pleaded guilty and was out on bail awaiting sentencing.
Cabrera, however, failed to show up for a court appearance. A judge issued an arrest warrant and submitted a forfeiture notice to the bail bond agent. The Rancho Cucamonga bail bonds firm that provided the bail was insured by Capital Bonding Corp., according to prosecutors.
That firm then put Webber, of Grand Terrace, and Walsh, of Chino Hills, on Cabrera's trail. The duo soon tied Cabrera to an Alhambra address.
Bail Agents Allegedly Had Their Guns Drawn
Jose Ramirez, who lives at the house, later told police that he was sitting on the porch Feb. 15 when the bail agents pulled their Chevrolet Suburban up to the house about 2:30 p.m. and jumped out with guns drawn.
Webber went inside while Walsh held Ramirez and two other men at gunpoint on the porch, Ramirez said. "They asked, 'Where's Rogelio?' " he told Alhambra Police Det. J. Medina.
Ramirez said he assumed the men were police. They let the two other men go and emptied out his pockets. They asked if there were drugs in the house and threatened to bring police dogs. "You know I can deport you if you're an illegal alien," Ramirez said one man told him.
Inside, Webber caught the woman trying to flush the cocaine down the toilet and handcuffed her, court papers say.
After searching the house, prosecutors say, the pair ordered Ramirez, the woman and her daughter into the Suburban. They drove to 7th and Alameda streets in Los Angeles, where Cabrera sometimes sought work as a day laborer.
Unable to find him, the agents went back to the Alhambra house and had the woman fix them food: tortillas, soup, sodas and cake, Ramirez told police.
That night, prosecutors allege, Webber raped the woman, a 27-year-old immigrant from Sinaloa, Mexico. DNA evidence taken from the scene so far has not matched a sample obtained from Webber's blood, Wojdak said. But, he said, tests are still being conducted on other samples.
The next morning, the agents again took the trio to Los Angeles, Ramirez told detectives. This time they caught Cabrera.
Lawyer Says Allegations Against Agents Are Lies
Michaelson said much of what the woman and others are saying is lies--and to be expected from drug suspects.
The lawyers say their clients identified themselves as bail agents from the get-go. Their guns were drawn because "Cabrera was involved in the Sinaloa drug cartel," which made the arrests high risk, the attorneys wrote in a court motion.
Michaelson said the rape never occurred and that there is no physical evidence. He said he has no doubt a jury will find the bail agents far more credible than a woman who kept cocaine next to a 3-year-old child.
"My client is a saint," Michaelson said. "He's never been in trouble in his life."