By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
No one disputes that an on-duty Irvine police officer got an erection and ejaculated on a motorist during an early-morning traffic stop in Laguna Beach. The female driver reported it, DNA testing confirmed it and officer David Alex Park finally admitted it.
When the case went to trial, however, defense attorney Al Stokke argued that Park wasn't responsible for making sticky all over the woman's sweater. He insisted that she made the married patrolman make the mess—after all, she was on her way home from work as a dancer at Captain Cream Cabaret.
"She got what she wanted," said Stokke. "She's an overtly sexual person."
A jury of one woman and 11 men—many white and in their 50s or 60s—agreed with Stokke. On Feb. 2, after a half-day of deliberations, they found Park not guilty of three felony charges that he'd used his badge to win sexual favors during the December 2004 traffic stop.
Park, 31, was red-faced and unable to control his twitching foot in the moments before the verdict was announced; if convicted, he would have faced prison. When he was found not guilty, he briefly embraced Stokke. In the public seating section, tears flowed from his gray-haired mother's face. His father, a mechanic, closed his eyes and threw his head back. Outside the courtroom, surrounded by his family, a smiling Park said he felt vindicated.
Veteran sex crimes prosecutor Shaddi Kamiabipour—who'd called Park "a predator" during the nine-day trial—said she was disappointed with the verdicts. She also dismissed Stokke's contention that the Orange County District Attorney's office had overcharged the case. At stake, Kamiabipour said, was the principle that no one—not even a horny cop who'd once won honors for community service—is above the law.
"Park didn't pick a housewife or a 17-year-old girl," Kamiabipour said in her closing argument. "He picked a stripper. He picked the perfect victim."
* * *
In the wee hours of Dec. 15, 2004, Lucy (only her first name was used during the trial) finished her final shift at Captain Cream in Lake Forest, not far from the Irvine Spectrum. Management had let her go after an incident involving a female customer in a bathroom stall. According to court records, there had been a small amount of cocaine, kissing and breast fondling.
Meanwhile, Park was on patrol in the southwest portion of Irvine. Prosecutors believe he was craving a sexual rendezvous, and so he watched for Lucy's white BMW to leave the strip club parking lot, then tailed her, waiting for an excuse for a stop. Park insisted he'd been cruising on the 405 north and coincidentally saw Lucy's vehicle weave and speed.
Kamiabipour, the prosecutor, shook her head in disbelief. She knew the facts—that the officer had waited at least eight or nine minutes before stopping the stripper on a secluded section of a highway that was out of his jurisdiction.
"He was stalking her," she said.
Four months earlier, Park had stopped Lucy under similar circumstances. That time, he'd ignored a plastic drug baggie he'd found in her car and her suspended license. But the stop wasn't a waste of time. After friendly chit-chat, the officer had scored Lucy's phone number. Telephone records show that Park called the stripper the next morning. She told him she was too busy to meet.
On the witness stand, Park explained that he'd called Lucy out of concern for a citizen's safety. He also shrugged his shoulders when Kamiabipour slowly listed the first names of nine Captain Cream female employees—Annette, Denise, Rashele, Marlia, Brandi, Andrea, Deborah, Laura and Shannon—whose license plates he'd run through the DMV computer in the weeks prior to his sexual encounter with Lucy. (Another coincidence, according to Stokke.) Jurors also learned that Irvine Police Sgt. Michael Hallinan had previously warned Park as they left work to stay away from the strippers.
Park, who works in construction nowadays, conceded that he'd been given the warning but claimed that he had no clue it was Lucy in the vehicle or that she had an invalid driver's license, even as he approached her car window.
Kamiabipour believed she'd caught the 6-foot-3 cop in a lie. Records show he ran the bosomy, 5-foot, 110-pound dancer's license plate before the stop, did not call for backup despite the potential for an arrest and failed to tell his supervisor or dispatch that he was leaving Irvine. Several Irvine officers testified that Park's behavior that night was odd.
"[Park's] testimony was just incredible," said Kamiabipour. Irvine city officials must have doubted his story, too. After an exhaustive police internal affairs investigation, they felt it was prudent to give Lucy $400,000 to make her civil lawsuit go away—for fear a jury might give her much more.
In a secretly-recorded phone call to Laguna Beach police shortly after the incident, Lucy recalled that she'd told Park she had no license. Park began "rubbing himself up against me," she said. "Then, he said, 'What are we going to do here, Lucy?'"
Park unzipped his pants, took his penis out and got an erection, she explained. "Basically, the officer made me give [him] a freaking hand job and he let me go. I'm so freaked out about it."