A Brief History of Orange County’s Sex Scandals

People have compiled histories of baseball in Orange County, of our long-gone walnut growers, of films shot here before the advent of talking movies. Chronicles about the Huntington Beach Fourth of July parade, about the Hippie Mafia, about a guy’s visit to the Santa Ana Valley in the 1860s. Tomes devoted to old railroads, orange-crate labels, even Aliso Viejo, where nothing remarkable has ever happened—ever.

But nowhere in OC’s many history books will you find much info on our most unsung industry: sex scandals. Few other places in the U.S. can boast such a hypocritical mix of prudish mores and a libido that matches any Tushy.com ingénue, which usually translates to shocking, sometimes hilarious incidents that no proper history ever bothered to jot down. Thankfully, we ain’t proper, so consider us the Herodotus of smut—but you knew that already, right?

The following is just a sampling of all the nasty, disturbing, crazy, insane or just plain embarrassing sex scandals that Orange County has seen through the ages, ones that sent tongues clucking and authorities scrambling to cover up the dirty deeds. Special attention was given to incidents involving people abusing their positions of power. We mostly excluded hot-for-teacher cases (save the most infamous one) because that deserves a whole volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. We’re a bit light on stuff before the 1980s, but we’ll keep digging.

And we limited the tales of Mike Carona to just one entry ’cause you’d need a full decontamination shower after reading that pervy pendejo‘s past, you know? Enjoy, and keep a barf bag nearby. . . .

1834: Priests at Mission San Juan Capistrano ban La Varsouvianna, a waltz that’s all the rage in Alta California at the time, under penalty of excommunication. How dirty was the dance? According to Leo J. Friis’ Orange County Through Four Centuries, La Varsouvianna would see a woman “[stand] at her partner’s left with her arms raised. The left hand of the gentleman reached behind her shoulders and gently clasped her left hand, and their right hands were joined.” In other words, the original twerk.

1876: The Societas Fraternia sets up a commune in Placentia. They introduce vegan eating, loquats and macadamias to Orange County, but residents—who ridiculed them as the Placentia Grass Eaters—fear their free-love way. The Santa Ana Standard opined in 1890, “A little wholesome hanging would be good for the entire community of frauds and fanatics.”

1882: About 40 former members of the Oneida Colony, a utopian community in upstate New York that also practiced free love, arrive in Santa Ana and buy up the land that’s now the Civic Center. Their leader is James W. Towner, who’d go on to become Orange County’s first judge. Writing of the group, the Standard—the Orange County Register of its day—warned men, “It will be a good idea for parents to keep their eyes on their daughters and husbands on their weak wives.” A century and a quarter later, the same would be said of Mike Carona.

1889: OC’s first example of slut-shaming happens to Modesta Avila, prosecuted for allegedly trying to derail a Southern Pacific train (she hammered a fence post on the tracks near her San Juan Capistrano road as a form of political protest). Her first trial ended in a hung jury; during her second one, rumors circulated that she was pregnant, which swayed the jury into convicting her. On appeal, Avila’s attorney argued that her “real crime is that she is a poor girl not having sense enough to have been married.” She was sent to San Quentin State Prison, where she died in 1891. Avila couldn’t escape the whispers about her virtue in death—the Standard wrote she was “a well-known favorite of the Santa Ana boys,” while OC’s historian emeritus Jim Sleeper wrote nearly a century later that Avila was a “charming dark-eyed beauty . . . who relied more on her beauty than her intelligence to keep food on the table and a roof over her head.” Asshole.

1913: Richard Nixon—the unsexiest man in human history—was born in Yorba Linda. How unsexy? In a 2011 post shooting down allegations that Tricky Dick had a secret homosexual relationship with longtime confidante Bebe Rebozo, eternal apologist John Taylor wrote, “Nixon was heterosexual. He loved smart, attractive women, flirted with them keenly if ineptly, and had no sexual energy whatsoever with men.” Isn’t that what they said about Roy Cohn?

1948: The Balboa Bay Club opens. Its steam rooms become a second board room for GOP bigwigs to conduct business—sometimes with towels, sometimes sans, and always with young, handsome male staffers sweatin’ with the oldies.

1966: The Los Angeles Angels move to Anaheim. OC becomes renowned among baseball players for its Annies, the sport’s nickname for groupies.

Late 1960s: Political lore maintains that a local newspaper printed the names of men caught in a gay raid. Among the names, per the lore? Tom Fuentes, who’d go on to become the rabidly anti-gay head of the Orange County Republican Party. No one has ever found that clipping; what’s undisputed now is that Fuentes was a-flamin‘.

1971: Wide World opens. It’s among the first swinger clubs in the United States. Orange County becomes one of the country’s primary spots for “the lifestyle,” as swingers call themselves. Such clubs spend the next 50 years in a cat-and-mouse game with authorities and puritanical neighbors, many of whom end up eventually succumbing to the allure of wife swapping.

1975: The Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA) tells the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to start psychological care for Eleuterio Ramos, a priest at St. Joseph Church in Placentia, citing “a recent incident.” Ramos would go on to become the most prolific pedophile priest in Orange County history, molesting at least 25 boys and never serving a day in jail.

1982: Our first national sex scandal emerges when Republican State Senator John Schmitz, a Republican so conservative that Nixon conspired to get him elected out of his former congressional seat, admits to fathering children out of wedlock with a GOP volunteer. This ruins Schmitz’s political career and is the setup to the punch line that would be his daughter—keep reading!

1982: Foxfire opens in Anaheim Hills, single-handedly creating the MILF/cougar category. Generations of bros rejoice.

Mid-1980s: St. Joseph Catholic Church in Santa Ana unveils a mural of Jesus in which he resembles a naked teenager. Quickly deemed “The Boner Jesus,” the mural would stand for more than 30 years, a time when the Diocese of Orange covered up multiple instances of abusive priests going after kiddies in its parishes. “Quite a bizarre painting,” Bishop Norman McFarland would say years later during a deposition, adding that homeowners living around St. Joseph complained that a parish priest had “painted a naked man up there,” graphically displaying Him “in the state of erection.” It was finally painted over in 2013.

1986: Dozens of supporters of Father Andrew Christian Andersen write to Orange County Superior Court Judge Luis A. Cardenas asking for clemency. He had just been convicted of 26 felony counts of child molestation while serving at St. Bonaventure in Huntington Beach. George Niederauer, who’d go on to become bishop of Salt Lake City, told His Honor that what Andersen did with the kids was little more than “wrestling” and “horseplay.” Jaime Soto, who’d go on to become an auxiliary bishop in Orange County and is currently Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, added that “our associations with others run the grave risk of being misunderstood by all parties.” The pleas for sympathy work: Cardenas gave Andersen no prison time, instead ordering him to visit a pedophile rehabilitation center in New Mexico. Four years later, Andersen was arrested for trying to sodomize a 14-year-old boy.

1988: Before a shocked jury, Judge Cardenas reveals that a deputy marshal in a murder trial he was presiding over had an affair with the accused. Marsha Leslie Evans had carried on an affair with Joselito Cinco, who would be found guilty of murdering two San Diego police officers. During a search of Cinco’s cell, investigators found love letters between the two and nude photos of Evans.

1992: Newport-Mesa Unified School District school finance officer Stephen A. Wagner pleads guilty to embezzling more than $3.5 million. He used the funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle that included luxury cars, fur coats and a secret gay life Wagner kept away from colleagues and his family.

1994: More than 350 parents and students of Santa Margarita Catholic High School hold a rally for former principal Michael Harris, who had just been sued for sexual molestation. At a park, supporters sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” while a plane overhead flew a banner expressing support for Harris. They did this despite the Diocese of Orange having a report that diagnosed Harris with an attraction to teenage boys, stating that “there is substance to the allegations” of abuse and that, of the accusations, “only a few of the actual incidents of abuse that have occurred.” Lawsuits against Harris would go on to cost the Diocese tens of millions of dollars—yet he still has supporters in Orange County.

1996: A former aide of Assemblyman Mickey Conroy files a sexual-harassment suit against her former boss. Among the disclosures: Conroy hung a sign inside his Capitol building office that stated, “Sexual harassment will not be tolerated; it will be graded.”

1997: Mary Kay Letourneau, daughter of John Schmitz, is arrested for having sexual relations with her 12-year-old student in Washington. A picture of the two emerges, with Letourneau’s coquettish look at the kid becoming a staple of scandal sheets and television shows ever since. The two remain together—um, okay.

2001: The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) revokes the nursing license of Kevin Duane Van Otterloo after he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lewd conduct involving him and a minor while serving as a supervising nurse at Orange County Juvenile Hall. A report by the BRN stated that guards at Juvenile Hall ignored the teenager’s pleas that he not be left alone with Van Otterloo, who proceeded to rub “the outside of [the victim’s] pants in the groin area” before “orally copulat[ing]” the teen. Despite this abuse, the Orange County Health Care Agency did not fire Van Otterloo for the crime; he was given a promotion.

2001: Rock Harbor Church founder Keith Page steps down as head pastor of the Costa Mesa ministry after admitting to an extramarital affair with a female church member. Why is this relatively vanilla episode here? Beats us, but evangelicals were disturbed by this for years after—silly kids!

2001: John Lenihan, pastor at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, is removed from his post after admitting to the Los Angeles Times that he had consensual, sexual relations with adult women. Lenihan had previously admitted to church officials that he had molested teenage girls and had even publicly been outed for that abuse—but relations with actual women? The Orange diocese forced Lenihan to get laicized for that—heckuva job, Brownie!

2002: Greg Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann videotape themselves sexually assaulting an unconscious 16-year-old girl on a Corona del Mar sofa and pool table with a pool cue, Snapple bottle, apple juice can and a lit cigarette in the victim’s vagina and rectum. The subsequent trial eventually brought down Greg’s father (Don, a lieutenant sheriff), George Jaramillo (another lieutenant sheriff) and Sheriff Mike Carona, as well as sent Haidl, Nachreiner and Spann to prison. They now have to register as sex offenders for life. Yet to this day, swaths of Newport Beach insist that their victim was merely acting in the film and liked it.

2002: Former Westminster police officer John Nelissen wins $15,000 after a judge ruled he had been illegally videotaped while having sex with a woman. The woman had sued Westminster Police Department, claiming she recorded the encounter to prove Nelissen had offered her a deal: In exchange for sex, he’d go easy on the woman’s fiancé, who had been arrested for stealing computer equipment. Westminster PD fired Nelissen after he had repeatedly lied to OCDA prosecutors about the coitus, ‘fessing up only when confronted with the tape. The woman also had to pay the legal fees for the city of Westminster.

2003: Huntington Beach police officer Mark Trachman is fired, arrested and convicted for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl he was interviewing at her home about a statutory-rape complaint. He was also popped on a misdemeanor count for coercing a 26-year-old woman to expose her breasts and other parts of her body and asked about her underwear of choice during a traffic stop. The three-year prison sentence Trachman eventually got was less than the maximum five years prosecutors sought because Judge James A. Stotler feared for Trachman’s safety in prison.

2003: Kobe Bryant gets accused of raping a hotel worker in Colorado. No criminal charges are filed, but Bryant settles a civil suit with the woman. More embarrassingly, Bryant holds a tearful press conference alongside his wife, Vanessa, in which he admitted his infidelity in such a pussified manner that the clip became immortalized on The Tom Leykis Show, complete with a moaning woman on a squeaky bed. Even more embarrassing? A Colorado police report published on The Smoking Gun revealed Bryant liked to ejaculate on women’s faces. Gives a whole new meaning to “shooting guard.”

2003: From the beginning of Steve Lowery’s cover story “Don Bren’s Phallus Complex”: “I was willing to look past Donald Bren’s penis until it was suddenly staring me in the face: 6, 8, maybe 10 feet high, thrusting into the sky, rock-hard, tanned, encircled by portals feeding the pool below. People sat around it, this obelisk-as-fountain that might resemble a fun-size Washington Monument to some, but to anyone reading the papers lately is evocative of a monument a man erects to himself to celebrate the manliness of making babies into his 60s, placing it at the entrance to his most celebrated creation—the Irvine Spectrum Center—for good measure, so people can not only see it and touch it, but view it from above.” The story was a psycho-sexual examination of the Irvine Co. chairman, who at the time was fighting a child-support lawsuit. The article led to the Irvine Co. pulling all of its ads from the Weekly to the tune of a quarter-million dollars—thanks, Steve!

2004: The Los Angeles Times reports that Enoch Lonnie Ford, a former worker with Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), had been paid $425,000 to not reveal his allegations about a homosexual affair with TBN head Paul Crouch. In a letter the Times cited, a TBN lawyer wrote that Crouch’s son, Matt Crouch, had told another lawyer, “I am devastated; I am confronted with having to face the fact that my father is a homosexual.

Former OC Weekly Commie Girl Rebecca Schoenkopf finally admits what she had hinted at for years: In 2003, she saw an Anaheim Angels World Series hero [NOT SPIEZIO] receive a blowjob from an Annie in the parking lot at the Grove of Anaheim.

2005: Anaheim police officer Bradley Stewart Wagner is arrested after threatening an undocumented woman with deportation unless she performed oral sex on him. Later, two other women come forward with stories of Wagner assaulting them. He eventually pleaded guilty to multiple felonies and was sentenced to four years in state prison.

2007: Jeffrey Ray Nielsen, a former aide to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and friend to numerous OC GOP politicians and staffers, pleaded guilty to molesting two boys. Originally charged in 2003, the OCDA let the case drag for years so Nielsen’s victims could appear older than at the time of the crimes in an effort to reduce his eventual sentence.

2007: Longtime GOP operative Matt Cunningham releases an unredacted deposition on a blog that reveals the name of six Catholic Church sex-abuse victims. He eventually apologized, but only after getting letters from John Manly, the pioneering lawyer who successfully sued the Diocese of Orange for tens of millions of dollars and whom Cunningham thought was a big ol’ meanie. Months later, the two would meet during a court hearing; Cunningham nearly shit his pants.

2007: UC Irvine drops a lawsuit filed against the widow of philosophy legend Jacques Derrida over scholarly papers he pledged to donate to the university, which already had the bulk of his collection. At issue was the university investigating a Derrida protégé accused of sexually harassing a female graduate student. While the student (an expert in vampire literature) was ultimately absolved of any wrongdoing, UCI’s treatment of him angered Derrida so much that he withdrew from the deal. UCI was forced to pay Derrida’s legal fees—deconstruct that!

2007: A jury finds former Irvine police officer David Alex Park not guilty of three felony counts of using his badge for sexual favors involving his ejaculating on a stripper during an early-morning traffic stop in Laguna Beach. Never mind that Park had run the dancer’s license plates or had disengaged his GPS as he trailed her—a jury bought Park’s defense that he was the actual victim. “She got what she wanted,” said Park’s attorney. “She’s an overtly sexual person.”

2008: On secretly recorded tapes, Sheriff Carona brags to his former lieutenant, Don Haidl, that in his career, he “got some, you know, phenomenal pussy along the way.” It’s a fine cap to a law-enforcement career that saw him take a photograph with a topless Russian prostitute covered only by his sheriff’s coat, have sex with a female deputy in a squad car, and get his penis immortalized in OC chronicles as “The Little Sheriff.” Deploy barf bag now!

2008: More than 1,500 Chapman University students storm staid Old Towne Orange during their biannual Undie Run, causing $13,000 in damages to the plaza’s iconic fountain. The neighborhood’s Miss Havishams think this is their shot to stop Chapman’s sexy coeds from dropping trou and frolicking in front of their Victorians, but the libertarian school ponies up the cash and works with the city to ensure Panthers don’t ruin stuff anymore. The Undie Run is now a beloved Orange tradition alongside the International Street Fair and Chapman’s scary bronze busts.

2009: Los Angeles Police Department Officer Ralph Cameron Lakin II pleaded guilty to taking upskirt photos of underage girls “with the intent to sexually gratify himself.” He was caught by Mark Dornan, son of infamous Congressman Bob—the finest thing that family ever did.

2009: Before the start of a cable-televised committee hearing, Yorba Linda Assemblyman Mike Duvall tells a colleague about his affair with a lobbyist. “She wears little eye-patch underwear,” said Duvall, who was married with two children. “So, the other day she came here with her underwear—Thursday. And so, we had made love Wednesday—a lot! And so she’s, she’s all, ‘I am going up and down the stairs, and you’re dripping out of me!’ So messy!” Duvall didn’t know his sexy talk was caught on air; he resigned a week later.

2010: Televangelist Benny Hinn denies a National Enquirer report that he had an affair with fellow God squawker Paula White. That leads to a lawsuit by Christian publishing house Strang Communications, who alleged that Hinn’s behavior had violated a morality clause in his contract with them. Hinn went on to admit to an “inappropriate relationship” with White.

2011: Former Huntington Park Police Chief Paul Lawrence Wadley is arrested for leaving photos of his genitalia for and exposing his genitals to women in parks around Anaheim Hills. He eventually pleads guilty to prowling and vehicle tampering and never spends a day in jail.

2012: OC Jail deputy Jennifer Tamara McClain is arrested for having an affair with inmate Christopher Roger Brown. Did we forget to mention that McClain is African-American and Brown was a white supremacist?

2014: The California Commission on Judicial Performance censured Judge Scott Steiner, who is married with young kids, for having sex in his chambers with Chapman University law school students; attempting to get one of the women a taxpayer-funded job with his former boss, DA Tony Rackauckas; and failing to recuse himself from a case involving an attorney who was one of his close friends. Part of the investigation involved investigators ripping out pieces of carpet from Steiner’s judicial chambers—allegedly the favored place for Hizzoner to carry on his liaisons because the couch squeaked too much.

2016: Former Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante is sentenced to a year in prison. He pleaded guilty to three felony counts of attempted sexual battery against his workers in his role as a Public Works administrator for the county of Orange. The scandal led to the resignation of Bustamante’s boss, former county CEO Thomas Mauk. Bustamante didn’t let the scandal phase him; in August, he appeared in the Santa Ana City Council chambers to accept an award with a pretty restaurant owner in tow. “It’s great to see you,” Councilman David Benavides told Bustamante before the meeting’s audience. “And great to have you back in the house.” NO CHILL.

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