Leonard Lopez Ventura: Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Leonard Lopez Arrested On Suspicion Of Sexually Assaulting Female Inmate In Jail
VENTURA, CALIFORNIA (September 23, 2019) – A Ventura County Sheriff’s Office deputy identified as Leonard Lopez has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a female inmate at a pre-trial facility in Ventura.
An investigation began when the victim told a staff member at the facility she was assaulted by Deputy Leonard Lopez. According to a news release from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office the Deputy entered the victim’s cell on September 9th during early morning hours.
He then “touched the victim’s intimate body parts over her clothing.” According to the news release, “The crime was established by statements and video surveillance evidence.”
The victim – only described as a resident of Filmore – was being housed in a segregated area of the facility. Deputy Leonard Lopez was removed from active duty, charged with felony sexual battery and released from jail on $20,000 bail.
All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty when charged with a crime.
Liability For Sexual Assaults On Prisoners By Correctional Officers
Sexual assault is a serious problem in prisons and jails across the country. According to one report from the AELE Law Journal, nearly one in five males and one in four females will be sexually assaulted during their incarceration. There are a number of factors that contribute to the prevalence of sexual assault. For example, mentally or intellectually impaired inmates are more likely to be targets for abuse. Cellblocks that have solid cell fronts may also contribute to instances of sexual assault.
There are a number of state and federal laws pertaining to inmate sexual abuse. Correctional officers that abuse inmates may be charged under California Penal Code 243.4 (a). According to the statute, “Any person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery.”
In addition to criminal liability on the part of individual officers for sexual abuse crimes, correctional facilities may face civil liability for sexual battery. Depending on the facts of any case a jail or correctional facility could be liable for failing to protect inmates from abuse. Generally speaking, correctional facilities will not be held vicariously liable for sexual battery merely because the assailant is their employee.
Courts have generally held that such activity is outside the course and scope of the correctional officer’s employment. See, for example, Shirley v. U.S. However, a prison superintendent and assistant superintendent could be held liable for a sexual battery if there is evidence that:
- They were personally involved in the incident
- They had actual or constructive knowledge of past violations of the accuser which they failed to remedy
- They were grossly negligent in failing to monitor the actions of the correctional officer
- They were deliberately indifferent to a known risk of harm to the inmate
Similarly, a jail or correctional facility could be found liable for sexual battery if they failed to provide officers with adequate training and supervision about sexual assault. This is what one court found in Drake v. City of Haltom after a number of women were sexually assaulted by jail staff who were allegedly improperly trained and supervised.
Victim’s of sexual assault often suffer very serious psychological injuries including post traumatic stress disorder. Any person that is sexually abused by jail staff may be able to hold their assailant and the jail accountable through a civil claim. Damages can include compensation for emotional distress, medical bills and punitive awards. A personal injury attorney can investigate your claim free of cost and let you know what your legal options are. There are, however, statute of limitations associated with being able to file a civil claim. It is therefore important to act quickly.
Investigating A Sexual Assault In Ventura County
We at West Coast Trial Lawyers extend our thoughts and prayers to the victim of this horrific crime. Any person that may have knowledge about what happened should come forward. Have their been past incidences like this? Were there warning signs with this particular officer? There needs to be a thorough investigation into what happened so that steps can be taken to prevent similar incidents.
Have you or someone that you care about been abused by Ventura County correctional officers? Our team of personal injury attorneys are here to answer any legal questions that you may have. We have experience helping inmates who have been harmed by officers in Ventura County. We are also committed to making sure that abuse victims are aware of their rights in order to combat the likelihood of additional assaults. Whether you just have questions about the law or need a free, independent investigation into an incident we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at (888) 888-9285.