Sergio Alvarez

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Ex-West Sacramento officer due in court today on sexual assault charges

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 - 5:45 pm | Page 1B

The former West Sacramento police officer accused of sexually assaulting women while on duty faces 35 criminal counts, including charges that he used his power as a peace officer to force his victims into sex acts, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Sergio Alvarez, 37, is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges today in Yolo Superior Court. As of Tuesday evening, he was being held in lieu of $29.3 million bail.

According to West Sacramento police, Alvarez is accused of assaulting six women between the ages of 20 and 47 while on duty. The alleged attacks sometimes occurred inside his patrol car.

The indictment, handed up by a grand jury assembled over the weekend to review the case, alleges that the assaults occurred between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 23, 2012. It also notes that two of the victims were assaulted on more than one occasion.

The indictment says little about the circumstances of the cases, but the charges themselves are clear. They include rape, sodomy, forced oral copulation and kidnapping – referring to Alvarez's alleged decision to move some of the victims to another location.

Several of the Penal Code sections include language that the alleged assaults were committed "by threatening to use the authority of a public official to incarcerate, arrest or deport the victim or another."

Lt. Tod Sockman, a spokesman for West Sacramento police, said he could not discuss how the victims were contacted or how the alleged assaults came about. However, he noted that the women had similar accounts and that the cases generally followed a pattern.

Sockman also declined to say whether some of the women — who police said "frequented the West Capitol Avenue" area – were prostitutes. In a news release issued Monday, police Chief Dan Drummond described the victims as "vulnerable."

The allegations came to light Sept. 24, when one of the victims came into contact with another West Sacramento patrol officer. Department officials immediately opened criminal and administrative investigations, Sockman said, and Alvarez was put on paid administrative leave.

Department officials also reached out to the Sacramento Police Department, which has more resources, to help expedite the case. Sockman said his agency has just seven detectives; Sacramento police dedicated two of theirs full time to the Alvarez case and took the lead in the investigation.

"They did an amazing job," Sockman said of the Sacramento police detectives. "I think those folks are top-notch."

Sockman said he did not know why five of the six victims did not come forward at the time of their assaults, but he said he believed the fact the suspect was a cop was a factor.

"I imagine there's an element of distrust," he said. "Would anybody believe them if they did come forward?"

He also credited the detectives with finding the additional victims and persuading them to cooperate, even though some of them "don't necessarily talk to police officers."

The grand jury returned the indictment Sunday, and Alvarez was arrested Monday. Department leaders also served him his termination papers that day.

Alvarez had worked for the West Sacramento Police Department since 2007, most recently working as a patrol officer on the graveyard shift.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Kim Minugh



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