Monday Morning Thoughts: Yolo DA Protects Some Victims, but Not All

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I find myself very troubled by the treatment of the victim in the case involving Andres Cordova.  What I find interesting is that, while I have been a consistent critic of Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig, he has been at least nominally and, in rhetoric, a staunch protector of victims.

He has an annual victim services program and each April recognizes the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with a Annual Crime Victims’ Tribute.  A few weeks ago marked the 13th annual tribute of its kind, dating back to his first year as DA in 2007.

On his website it writes: “Jeff has been a tireless protector of victims, especially children and victims of sexual crimes. His office aggressively prosecutes sexual predators, child molesters, child pornography offenders and pimps.”

And yet, the woman involved in the Andres Cordova case was not protected at all by Deputy DA Michael Vroman.  He was far more concerned about convicting Mr. Cordova than he was protecting this vulnerable young woman.

This woman was extremely vulnerable – she had no family, no education, no support system.  She was pregnant and giving birth to a small child when the authorities came to find out if they could get more information from her – at that time they learned that one of their own, Officer Lear Lutrell, had taken advantage of her, a domestic violence victim, by basically coercing her into having sex.

She told a public defender investigator: “I felt pressure from Officer Luttrell to have sex with him.”

She told me: “(Officer Luttrell) made me feel like I had to.” She said, “He made it seem like he was coming to check on me. He started to push himself on me. He was on duty in uniform.”

She added, “I feel like I have no family. It’s my word against theirs and they’re not willing to believe my word.”

Isn’t she the exact type of victim that the district attorney’s office is sworn to protect?  And yet, what did Deputy DA Vroman do when he was confronted with this information?

According to the victim’s account, she told him about it right after she gave birth to her child.  She said that he told her “he would do whatever it took to make sure that the sex I had with Officer Luttrell did not come up in court.”

But it gets worse, she told the public defender investigators. “He said the sex between Officer Luttrell and I did not matter because adults can do that.”

In point of fact, if Officer Luttrell went to her apartment, in his uniform, and had sex with her and she felt pressured to do so – that borders on sexual assault or rape.  He used his color of authority to take advantage of a very vulnerable victim.

But Mr. Vroman wasn’t interested in protecting the victim, he was interested in making sure Andres Cordova got convicted and sentenced to life for attempted murder.

Mr. Vroman, for what it’s worth, denies being told the full story.

He told the court: “She never told me she had an affair with any member of the Woodland Police Department.  What she told me was that there was information that she — that she knew the defendant was aware of that, would be embarrassing, and that we wouldn’t want to come out.

“I stated it is irrelevant information. It is my job to work to keep out irrelevant information,” he argued.  “So, I was not aware that she was making this unsubstantiated allegation against now Deputy Placer County, Deputy Luttrell.”

But that’s not true, according to what she told the Vanguard.

Mr. Vroman, she said, learned about the sex right around this point in time – despite his claims to the contrary in court where she said she was quite explicit – and they had a conversation in which he promised to keep it out of court.

She said, “Michael Vroman said he’s going to take it to his grave.”

As she told the investigator: “District Attorney Vroman said it did not matter because he was not going to allow it into court. District Attorney Vroman also said he was going to make sure that Andres was going to do time and he would take it to his death bed before he allowed Andres to walk free.”

This young woman was scared and extremely vulnerable.  She noted that her mother is serving a life sentence out of Solano County and has already done, by now, about 14 years of that sentence.  That likely means that this young woman was a juvenile at the time of her mother’s incarceration.

But no one seemed that interested in making sure that this woman, who claimed to have been victimized by the police, was protected – not the police, not the district attorney’s office, and not even the court.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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