The Los Angeles Times reports that the city of Brawley has agreed to pay a $1-million settlement to a woman who accused a Brawley Police Department officer of raping her after being arrested on suspicion of DUI.
Court documents show that former Brawley Police Department officer Ricardo Gabriel Valdez contacted the woman at her home on June 21, 2020, after receiving a call of a driver backing into the front yard of a home before hitting a tree. Former officer Valdez’s police report indicated he knocked on the woman’s front door. When she answered, she was too intoxicated and had difficulty standing on her own or answering questions asked by police.
Valdez reportedly handcuffed the woman, put her in his patrol car, and took her into custody for several hours, during which former officer Valdez drove her around Brawley. Eventually, he took her to an area hospital to have her blood drawn to test her level of intoxication. After the test, he drove her home, and it was there that the victim claimed Valdez raped her.
Attorneys for the plaintiff said that at the time of the attack, Valdez was wearing his uniform and badge and carrying his service revolver into the victim’s home. They allege that he abused his authority as a police officer to take advantage of their client, who was unconscious at the time. They further allege that Valdez left the DUI citation by the woman’s bedside before he left.
An investigation found DNA evidence in the victim’s home directly connected to Valdez, corroborating her claim.
The Imperial County District Attorney charged Officer Valdez with multiple felony counts, including assault by a police officer, sexual battery, rape of an unconscious victim, and burglary in July 2020. The county court dismissed the charges on July 30, 2021, based on the victim’s lack of credibility.
Officials say that the City of Brawley acted immediately after the woman made her allegations and put Valdez on administrative leave. City Attorney Michael Gibbs told reporters that the settlement was made to “avoid the uncertainty and expense of a jury trial.”