Updated 8:08 pm, Friday, September 30, 2016
A former Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty Friday to sex crimes in a sprawling misconduct investigation involving a Richmond teenager that has implicated law enforcement officials around the Bay Area.
The arraignment of Ricardo Perez, who resigned this year after The Chronicle published details of the allegations against him, came a day after the 19-year-old woman at the center of the scandal filed claims seeking tens of millions of dollars in compensation from Richmond, San Francisco, Livermore and Alameda County.
The teenager has said she had sex with 29 law enforcement officers in the Bay Area in the past two years. She said some of them paid her, while others tipped her off about prostitution stings or ran the names of people she knew through law enforcement databases.
In the claims, her lawyers described the actions by officers and sheriff’s deputies as human trafficking, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. The claims lay the groundwork for civil lawsuits.
The young woman previously went by — but has since discarded — the online alias Celeste Guap. Her attorneys have asked that she be referred to only by her first name, Jasmine, to protect her privacy because she’s the victim of crime.
The allegations against Perez, 28, are among the most severe leveled by Alameda County prosecutors against the five current and former officers so far criminally charged. Deputy District Attorney Sabrina Farrell said she plans to charge two other Oakland police officers — one of whom has resigned — but has yet to do so because of investigations into their conduct.
Perez was the second of the accused officers to appear in court. Last week, Brian Bunton of the Oakland Police Department pleaded not guilty to charges of engaging in prostitution and obstruction of justice.
Jasmine told investigators that she and Perez had sex about 10 times in the summer of 2015 at a dirt turnout near Fish Ranch Road in the Oakland hills when she was 17.
In interviews with investigators, Perez denied the timeline but admitted to having sexual intercourse and oral sex with the teenager at the location she described. He was charged with felony oral copulation with a minor and two counts of engaging in lewd conduct in public.
Jasmine said in a previous interview with The Chronicle that Perez would pick her up while off duty and drive her to the spot near Fish Ranch Road. She said no money was exchanged. Asked if the deputy knew she was younger than 18, Jasmine said, “I don’t think he asked.”
At the Hayward Hall of Justice on Friday, Judge Joseph Carson ordered that Perez be released on his own recognizance, meaning he was not required to post bail or surrender to jail. Farrell had asked for a bail of $60,000. During the arraignment, Carson made an apparent joke about the sexual misconduct, saying he hadn’t been to Fish Ranch Road since he was in high school — a comment sharply criticized outside court by Jasmine’s attorneys.
“I think that reflected the sentiment of the court, that this conduct was minimal and should be minimized and would not warrant an appropriate bond for this young man,” said Pamela Price, one of the lawyers. “This judge obviously had his own filter through which he observed the situation, and he made a judgment call.”
Perez and his attorney, Joseph Motta, did not speak with reporters at the courthouse. In arguing that Perez shouldn’t have to pay the bail Farrell had requested, Motta said that Perez had “certainly lost his job over this” and that the ex-deputy is now living with his parents in east Contra Costa County.
Perez was ordered to return to court Nov. 4 for a pretrial hearing.