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'Bling Ring' cop's job at risk

Brett Goodkin has been the subject of an internal L.A. police investigation over serving as technical advisor on Sofia Coppola's movie on the burglaries. A disciplinary panel will rule on his case.

April 30, 2013|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
  • A disciplinary panel is preparing to rule on the results of an internal investigation into 10-year Officer Brett Goodkin's simultaneous involvement in the real-life "Bling Ring" case and the film, being unveiled soon at Cannes.
A disciplinary panel is preparing to rule on the results of an internal investigation… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

Los Angeles police officer Brett Goodkin is about to make his big-screen debut, playing a bit role as a cop in "The Bling Ring," Sofia Coppola's movie about fame-obsessed San Fernando Valley youths who burgled the homes of celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

But as the director prepares to unveil the picture at the Cannes Film Festival, the LAPD investigator is hardly basking in the glory of his 15 minutes of fame. Instead, he's facing the imminent prospect of losing his job, as a disciplinary panel prepares to rule on the results of an internal investigation into his simultaneous involvement in the real-life case and the film.

Goodkin, 40, served as a technical advisor on "The Bling Ring," consulting last spring with the filmmaker about police procedures and performing a brief speaking part as an officer who arrests a suspect played by Emma Watson. In exchange for his work on the film, which will hit theaters in the U.S. in June, he received $12,500.

However, Goodkin has been accused of not properly informing the LAPD or the L.A. County district attorney of his Hollywood turn — major oversights, considering the prosecution of three of the Bling Ring defendants was still ongoing when he worked on the picture.

LAPD officials launched an internal affairs probe into Goodkin's conduct in April 2012. Now, an LAPD source with direct knowledge of the investigation said police officials want to see the 10-year veteran fired and have ordered him to go before a disciplinary panel that will decide his fate. The source, who requested anonymity because police discipline matters are confidential, said the so-called Board of Rights hearing is not expected to take place for several months.

The source also said that the LAPD has opened a second investigation into Goodkin, this one looking into allegations that he sent unsolicited and sexually suggestive messages to a woman who was a potential witness in the Bling Ring case.

"I'm not going to have any comment," Goodkin said when reached by telephone Monday. His lawyer, Jodi Gonda, did not respond to multiple inquiries from The Times.

When first contacted by The Times about "The Bling Ring" film a year ago, Goodkin said he participated in the film because he considered it to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at inner workings. He downplayed his role in the film, saying, "It's not like I'm Bruce Willis."

Indeed, Goodkin is on screen for less than a minute, during a scene in which he places handcuffs on Watson's character, Nicki, who is based on Bling Ring participant Alexis Neiers.

"Ma'am, you need to secure your animal now. Pick up your dog," he says upon entering Nicki's house. "Just sit down. Zip it. Put your hands behind your back."

When Goodkin goes before the Board of Rights, he will face three counts, sources said. He is charged with not obtaining the proper work permit for his time on Coppola's production, making an alleged false statement to head Deputy Dist. Atty. Barbara Murphy about his work on the movie and ultimately compromising the prosecution's case.

The L.A. County Superior Court judge who presided over the Bling Ring case, meanwhile, has made his feelings about Goodkin's effect on the proceedings clear in recent months.

"You should all write a thank you letter to Goodkin, because his judgment is as poor as it gets," Judge Larry P. Fidler said while addressing the attorneys for Roy Lopez Jr., Courtney Ames and Diana Tamayo at a hearing last July. "You can have a field day with his credibility during trial.... It's a shame what he did. It's harmful to the people's case."

The case never went to trial, however, as all three defendants subsequently accepted plea deals that put them on three years' probation. Tamayo and Ames were also sentenced to 60 days of community service. In exchange for the pleas, prosecutors dismissed other charges, including burglary.

"You got a break because of what's happened with this case," Fidler told Lopez when he was sentenced in November.

If Goodkin escapes being fired, the discipline panel could decide he should be suspended or simply let off with a warning. It could also clear him of any wrongdoing.

In addition to the punishment he might face as a result of his collaboration with Coppola, Goodkin must also contend with the LAPD's second investigation. That inquiry centers on allegations by Jennifer Issa, whom Goodkin met while building his case against the Bling Ring in 2010.

Issa, a lingerie designer, had hired Neiers to model for Issa's now-defunct line of clothing. Issa said that upon learning of her relationship with Neiers, Goodkin called her into the North Hollywood Community Police Station. During the meeting, she said he questioned her about Neiers' possible involvement in the burglaries — but after the interview concluded, he began making frequent and inappropriate contact with her.

"He was so confident that he was going to put Alexis in jail that he said, 'You wanna make a bet? If she goes to jail, then I get to sleep with you,'" Issa recalled in an interview with The Times. "He kind of started to stalk me. He'd text me and say, 'I just saw you walking your dog. I liked the top you were wearing.'"

Goodkin also friended Issa on Facebook, through which he allegedly sent her graphic sexual messages.

An LAPD sergeant sent Issa an email saying he had authenticated the messages as part of his investigation. The email was reviewed by The Times.

"They say that the Bling Ring kids were fame-obsessed, but so was he. He was always bragging about celebrities he met," Issa said of Goodkin. She added that after he appeared in a courtroom scene featured on Neiers' 2010 E! reality show "Pretty Wild," he sent Issa a text message: "Did you see me on their show? Did I look hot?"

Times staff writer Joel Rubin contributed to this report.

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