A former Modesto police officer, initially accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a motel room in January of last year, pleaded no contest Friday to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution and petty theft because of having sex with the woman while on duty.
A criminal grand jury on March 15, 2012, indicted Lee Freddie Gaines, 28, on charges of oral copulation by force, being armed with a firearm while committing a sexual offense, sexual battery and assault under color of authority.
Prosecutors dropped those felony charges because there was insufficient evidence to prove the acts happened. Gaines' trial was scheduled to start May 29.
Mary Lynn Belsher, Gaines' attorney, said her client always maintained he was innocent of the sex crimes. She said he has admitted he had sex with a prostitute at the Modesto motel.
"I think it's the appropriate resolution under the circumstances," Belsher said about the outcome in the criminal case. "(The sex) was totally consensual."
Gaines provided a written statement to The Bee that he had intended to read in court Friday. In the statement, he says he lost his job because he failed to uphold all laws. He says he is sorry for hurting his co-workers, his friends and his family, most importantly his wife.
"I swore to keep the high standards of ethics, morality and responsibility, but instead I was selfish, arrogant and corrupt," Gaines wrote. "I was willing to commit the crimes I am guilty of today because I didn't care about the things that truly matter."
Sentence of time served
As part of his no-contest plea, Gaines was sentenced to time served in the Stanislaus County Jail. After Gaines was taken into custody, he remained at the jail for more than 10 days until he was released on $325,000 bail.
In a court document filed Wednesday, the Stanislaus County district attorney's office said the claimed victim "has severely undermined the ability of the prosecution to obtain a conviction."
District Attorney Birgit Fladager declined to comment about the plea deal, but said the reasons to drop the serious felony charges are listed in the filed court document.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira ordered Gaines to serve 30 days of probation and pay $32.57 in restitution to the city for stealing an hour of his work time while having sex with the woman.
Belsher said she wrote out a check for the restitution in court Friday and handed it over to the lead investigator, police Detective Craig Grogan. She said Grogan promised to return a receipt to her.
Gaines is thankful that the case is over and that he has his life back, Belsher said. She said Gaines is employed in the construction industry, and she doesn't know whether he will return to law enforcement.
Belsher said she will seek to have his record expunged next month.
Attempts by The Bee to reach the claimed victim by phone Friday evening were not successful. She had described the incident to The Bee in a phone conversation several weeks before Gaines was arrested. Her name was not published because of the nature of the claimed crime.
"I want people to know what this cop is doing," the 37-year-old woman told The Bee last year. "I want them to know who he is, what his face is like, that he used his badge and his uniform to sexually assault a female."
She testified to the criminal grand jury that she was working as a prostitute out of a room at the Travelers Motel on North Ninth Street in Modesto. She said she got a call for service and the officer came to her motel room. She said the officer handcuffed her and demanded oral sex.
An investigator testified that Gaines was on duty when he made 16 calls to people listed on Myredbook.com, a website that reportedly is one of the more popular for listing sex-related services.
The woman would use Myredbook.com so potential "tricks or dates" would not have her personal phone number, according to a transcript of the criminal grand jury proceedings.
Investigators collected Gaines' uniform from his locker at police headquarters. Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris told the grand jury that a DNA analysis found traces of the woman's saliva on the inside of a zipper on Gaines' pants.
In the court document filed earlier this week, the district attorney's office explained: "The only two witnesses to this event are the complaining witness and the defendant. There is conclusive DNA proof that a 'sex act' occurred between the complaining witness and the defendant. One alleges that force was used and the other denies it."
In August, the woman filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against Gaines, the Modesto Police Department and the city. The lawsuit seeks $4.5 million in damages for severe emotional distress, pain, suffering and economic losses.
Version of events changed
The district attorney's office said, "The complaining witness has changed her version of the events occurring in the motel room when she was alone with the defendant, adding significant and damaging details regarding the defendant's conduct."
Belsher said a woman a tenant at the motel who was letting the claimed victim stay in her room was expected to testify that the accuser said she was using the incident to get a payout and a way out of her situation. Shortly after the incident was said to have occurred, the motel tenant found no marks on the claimed victim's hands to indicate she had been handcuffed, Belsher said.
The defense attorney said she will hand over to Gaines' civil attorney all the evidence she collected in the criminal case to defeat the woman's claims. The federal court suspended the civil case until the criminal case was completed.
The local prosecutors said the accuser since had been arrested and charged with a felony offense and remained a fugitive from the court until recently. That criminal case has been dismissed because of other issues, the prosecutors said, but information from the case would be admissible against the woman in Gaines' trial.
Belsher attempted to obtain mental health records on the woman, but prosecutors could not find those records because of inaccurate and conflicting information from the woman.
Gaines' initial charges prohibited a plea bargain unless there was insufficient evidence or the testimony of a material witness could not be obtained.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.
Lee Freddie Gaines provided this written statement to The Bee that he had intended to read in court Friday:
To my family, friends and the citizens of Modesto,
On March 27th, 2007 I became a police officer for the City of Modesto. On that day, I took an oath to uphold and observe ALL LAWS, and live a life unsullied, as the Peace officer code of ethics puts it. On Jan 12th 2012, I was removed from my police officer duties because I failed. I swore to keep the high standards of ethics, morality and responsibility, but instead I was selfish, arrogant and corrupt. I was willing to commit the crimes I am guilty of today because I didnt care about the things that truly matter.
I am sincerely sorry for the actions that I took. My actions caused pain for others too numerous to count. I hurt my family, friends, co-workers, the citizens of this city and the person I said I loved the most -- my wife. I cannot give any excuse for my actions because there is none.
To the citizens of Modesto -- This is the first time I have been able to express regret and sorrow for the actions I took that affected every one of you. I should have been looking out for your best interests and I wasnt. I used some of my time on duty for personal gain and I regret that as much as anyone can. Please accept my sincere apology.
To my family and friends -- What I did caused tremendous pain for many of you. I am so sorry I put all of you through this. None of you knew of the things I did then, but your love and support remained. You knew me well enough to know the truth and that I was not capable of doing the things I was previously accused of, but the crimes I am guilty of today are exactly the actions I did take. I thank all of you for your love and support through this. I could never fully repay you for that.
To my wife -- you are literally the person who lost the most because of this. You were shocked to discover who your husband was and what I had done to you. But what did you do in return? You gave me love, forgiveness and support. You showed me the Love of Christ like no other person could have. It took me 27 years of life to decide to live a life led by Jesus, and your life has been my example of what that looks like. I have so much sorrow and regret for the pain I caused you and for the circumstances I put our family in, but today I am so thankful for what God has done for us and how he has brought us closer than ever. I love you so very much.
To my son -- Today you are just shy of 2 1/2 , so you really wont understand what has happened for many years. When the time comes that you are able to understand all of this, I will not hide it from you. It is my deepest prayer that you are shocked. Son, I pray that the life you will know your father to have is one of upmost integrity and honor; the life of a man who lives for his Lord, his family and others before himself. I cant wait to show you the truth of these things so you can see for yourself just how far a broken person can go without Christ leading their life. These are the horrible things I was willing to do son, but there is somewhere and someone to turn to for a change of who you are. If you let Christ into your heart and let Him lead your life, there is nothing He cant help you with. I love you so much, son.
Again, I take full responsibility for my actions. I am truly sorry for what I did. I dont think I can express that enough.