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Deputy Is Put on Suspension in Sex Inquiry

The 14-year veteran is alleged to have had sex with a prostitute while on duty and then seized a video of the incident.

June 25, 2003|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

A veteran Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy has been suspended because of a criminal investigation into allegations that he had sex in his patrol car while on duty and then seized a videotape of the incident, authorities said Tuesday.

Deputy Gilbert Martinez, a 14-year veteran, was relieved of duty early this month by Sheriff Lee Baca.

Law enforcement sources said prosecutors are considering whether to charge the deputy with coercing the woman -- a prostitute -- into a sex act under the color of authority.

Those familiar with the probe said that the ability of prosecutors to show that the woman was coerced may be undercut by the allegation that the incident was videotaped. Prosecutors would face the challenge of trying to persuade the jury that the taping was not an effort to set up the deputy but merely a coincidence.

At least one supervisor at the Lennox station, where Martinez is assigned, is under investigation for allegedly failing to follow up on a complaint made against the deputy shortly after the alleged incident in the spring of 2001, law enforcement sources said.

Martinez allegedly engaged in a sex act in his patrol car in the Lennox area about the middle of the day, law enforcement sources said. The incident allegedly was videotaped by a friend of the woman, she and that individual told sheriff's investigators. But after Martinez learned of the taping, he allegedly threatened the pair and recovered the videotape, law enforcement sources said.

Martinez, who could not be reached for comment, has denied all allegations.

Bill McSweeney, chief of the sheriff's Training Division, said a Lennox station deputy whom he declined to name was relieved of duty with pay earlier this month after a probe into "sexual misconduct on duty."

McSweeney said the internal probe began about 10 months ago and was forwarded to prosecutors a week ago. At least one other employee also is under internal investigation and has been assigned to administrative duties, he said.

Lennox sheriff's station supervisors first learned of allegations against Martinez in May 2001 from an anonymous caller, law enforcement sources said.

The caller told a watch commander he had information about a deputy committing sex acts on duty, sources said. The supervisor receiving the call made Martinez aware of the complaint, sources said. The caller hung up before providing further details and the supervisor has stated that he told superiors about the call. However, that contention remains unresolved, sources said. The allegation was not acted upon.

About a year later, a prostitute detained by Los Angeles police told officers that one of her customers was a sheriff's deputy in the Venice area, sources said. She named Martinez but could not pick him out of a display of photographs, sources familiar with the questioning said.

The report was referred to the Sheriff's Department, where a lieutenant at the Lennox station remembered the call about Martinez and began an investigation, sources said.

He and other supervisors checked Martinez's log and found the names of several prostitutes, one of whom alleged she was the woman who was videotaped, law enforcement sources said. She alleged that Martinez agreed to look the other way in return for sex, sources said.

She led investigators to the video camera operator. The camera operator and the woman told investigators they were together at a cafe when the deputy showed up and called the woman aside, sources said. The camera operator alleged that he later saw them in a car together and videotaped them, sources said. The camera operator told investigators that he was the person who called the Lennox station in 2001, sources said.

The woman, sources said, alleged after that call that the deputy threatened her and retrieved the videotape from her.

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