After taking nearly a week in choosing a jury, the case against former West Sacramento Police Officer Sergio Alvarez began with opening statements and testimony on Monday.
Mr. Alvarez, who was a West Sacramento police officer, sat as opening statements began. Judge Timothy Fall first read the charges.
A grand jury has indicted and charged Sergio Alvarez with 28 separate counts of Oral Copulation, Rape, and Sexual Penetration against the will, with enhancements in Residential Burglary, Kidnapping, and Duress as a peace officer. Most of the events took place in or around the area of West Capitol Boulevard in West Sacramento. The alleged assaults occurred between October 2011 and September of 2012.
Deputy District Attorney Garrett Hamilton publicly released the names of the victims during his opening statement. He argued, “These people were down and out, hard core dope users,and alcoholics but they are still victims.”
The five victims were identified as “down-and-out” women who were a rugged combination of homeless, prostitutes, and drug addicts. Methamphetamine and alcohol contributed to their vulnerability and fear of the police. He told the jury that officer Sergio Alvarez abused his authority and power to control and scare them.
Mr. Hamilton stated that after one of the alleged victims told another officer, during a stop on patrol, about the abuse they began their investigation.
The alleged victim would tell police of a night when she first came in contact with Alvarez.
In DDA Hamilton’s opening statement, he carefully dissected the difference in power between Sergio Alvarez and his five victims. He described that the mere presence of a police patrol car, along with an officer’s numerous weapons, boast a significant advantage over the normal person. Hamilton stressed that Officer Alvarez abused this power in order to prey upon helpless, homeless women.
One of the victims also had a warrant out for her arrest on drug possession charges which, Hamilton explains, might have enticed Alvarez to target this victim.
Mr. Hamilton continued, stating that Mr. Alvarez allegedly asked his victims if they were willing to offer them sexual favors if they wanted to avoid jail time. Many of his victims were then driven to an isolated area a few minutes from West Capitol/Jefferson Blvd. in West Sacramento.
Two of the victims are best friends. The story was continually picked apart by the DDA to display Mr. Alvarez as a kidnapper and rapist, who abused his powers as a police officer and disregarded the victims’ vulnerability and drug abuse history.
Mr. Hamilton’s opening statement told the jury that Officer Alvarez’s DNA was found in the alley that the victims described were possible locations of the assaults, but the GPS in his patrol car was not operational during the attacks.
One woman said Alvarez stopped her near West Capitol Ave and began questioning her. She told the other officer that Alvarez put her into the back of the cop car while checking her for warrants. The woman said she had a warrant but Officer Alvarez asked her what she could do for him so he would not take her into custody.
She said out of fear she agreed to perform oral copulation, so Officer Alvarez drove her to an alley where the incident took place. Afterward, he let her out and she left the alley.
Mr. Hamilton told jurors it began with her and involved four other women.
Defense attorney in this case J. Toney would argue the incidents were consensual.
The first witness to be called was Lt. Jennifer Gillart. She testified to being the commander at West Sacramento Police Station during the time when Alvarez was on duty.
Mr. Hamilton had her explain the procedure which an officer has to follow when they make a stop. Lt. Gillart says the officer can do a local warrant check and check for a person being under the influence if suspected.
But she stated once they are put in the back seat of the patrol car, they have no way out but by the door being opened from the outside.
She talked about the microphone worn on the lapel of uniformed officers and how once it had been triggered by one of the alleged victims during an encounter with Alvarez. She said that the camcorder can be manually turned on or off, but certain things like excessive speed by an officer or accidents can automatically turn them on.
Garrett Hamilton then began asking about the conversation between her and one of the alleged victims. Gillart stayed that she received a phone call from her. She said the alleged victim wanted to give her information about the investigation into Officer Alvarez but she directed her to Sgt. Lasson to be interviewed.
Gillart was asked if any other officer had used the same patrol car as Alvarez. She said possibly, but no other officer fit the description of Alvarez.
Defense attorney J. Toney asked if the MAV system (a surveillance camera) had always been working in Alvarez’s car. Lt. Gillart said she did know it had problems.
Lt. Gillart was asked about a small camera device, like a spycam found in Alvarez’s locker. She said it had parts of an encounter with one of the alleged victims.
One of the first alleged victims to testify said she was living in the West Sacramento area during September of 2012. The victim said she lived in an apartment on Maple Street for a while until Child Protective Services took her children away.
She cried as she described her meth addiction during that time in 2012. The victim testified that she became homeless after losing her children and would sleep at friends’ houses until ending up in a tent. She said she had no money for shelter or anything else.