Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 23
Alleged victim sues Covarrubias' estate and the city of Santa Maria in federal court
BY JEREMY THOMAS
A former Santa Maria police explorer filed a lawsuit in federal court on Aug. 7, alleging deceased police officer Albert Covarrubias Jr. raped and threatened her on multiple occasions over the course of a month.
The plaintiff, referred to as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, is suing the Covarrubias estate, the city of Santa Maria, and several police officers, claiming the city and police department knew of Covarrubias’ “unwanted sexual advances” toward the alleged victim and failed to act on the information in a timely manner.
The sexual assaults and harassment, the complaint alleges, took place from December 2011 to late January of 2012, when Covarrubias was shot and killed by fellow officer Matthew Kline while police attempted a felony arrest on him. Jane Doe was 17 years old at the time.
According to the complaint, Covarrubias, who was acting as Jane Doe’s supervisor in the Explorer program—a police training program for teens—utilized his position to spend time alone with the alleged victim, and used his authority as a police officer to threaten her into keeping silent about the assaults.
“Covarrubias told Jane that if she did not sleep with him that he would kill Jane’s boyfriend and her family,” the complaint states. “Covarrubias emphasized that as a police officer he would be able to get away with it. Further, he would be protected by his fellow officers and the Santa Maria Police Department.”
The lawsuit accuses police officers of knowing Covarrubias had gone on late night ride-alongs with Jane Doe alone and “did nothing to protect plaintiffs from sexual exploitation.” It also alleges the department cultivated an atmosphere of retaliation for reporting officer misconduct, and caused Jane Doe “emotional distress“ by involving her in a pretext call to Covarrubias as part of the police investigation.
In an e-mail to the Sun, Assistant City Attorney Phil Sinco said his office had not yet been officially served with the complaint and had not finished reviewing it.
“In any case, we are unlikely to have any significant comment to make concerning the allegations in the lawsuit until after substantial discovery has been completed in the case, which could take several months,” Sinco wrote.
The complaint seeks unspecified damages for the alleged assault, as well as violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments; lack of training and supervision rising to indifference on the part of the Santa Maria Police Department; negligent supervision, and sexual harassment.
“The harassment included Covarrubias’ repeated touching and fondling private portions of plaintiff’s body, sending her lewd messages, and coaxing her into various sex acts though such action is illegal as plaintiff was under 18,” the complaint states.
The Woodland Hills law firm of Goldberg and Gage is representing the plaintiff. Neither attorney responded immediately to a request for comment.
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