Woman claiming sexual assault unhappy with ex-Modesto officer's plea deal

rahumada@modbee.comMay 6, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    Rosalio Ahumada
    Title: Courts reporter
    Coverage areas: Criminal cases, breaking news
    Bio: Rosalio Ahumada has been a reporter at The Bee for more than seven years, previously covering crime and public safety issues. He also has worked at the Merced Sun-Star, covering education.
    Recent stories written by Rosalio
    On Twitter: @ModBeeCourts
    E-mail: rahumada@modbee.com

— A woman who still claims she was sexually assaulted by a Modesto police officer said Monday that prosecutors were wrong to agree to a plea deal that would drop felony charges against the defendant.

The former officer says the sex was consensual and his accuser continues to lie.

Sheri Newton alleged that Lee Freddie Gaines, on duty and in uniform, handcuffed her inside the motel room and demanded oral sex. Newton told a criminal grand jury that she was working as a prostitute and the officer searched her out.

"He came with one thing on his mind," Newton said about Gaines. "He got what he wanted and then he left."

The Stanislaus County district attorney's office said Gaines' accuser "has severely undermined the ability of the prosecution to obtain a conviction," according to a court document filed last week.

On Friday, Gaines pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution and petty theft for having sex with the woman while on duty. He said Monday that the evidence collected shows her allegations of sexual assault are false.

"I deny fully that any sexual assault occurred," Gaines said. "She's been proven time and again of being a fabricator of stories."

She testified to the criminal grand jury that she got a call for service Jan. 5, 2012, and the officer came to her room at the Travelers Motel on North Ninth Street in Modesto.

Newton said she was devastated when she learned prosecutors were dropping the sexual assault charges. She said she thinks it's sad authorities are letting go free a man who forced her into a sexual act while he was working as a police officer.

"I always had my doubts that he would be fully prosecuted," Newton said. She also said this is what happens to women who are assaulted while working as prostitutes, "doing what we have to do to survive."

Gaines no longer works for the Modesto Police Department. He works in the construction industry.

As part of his plea deal, Gaines was sentenced to time served at the Stanislaus County Jail and 30 days of probation. He paid the city $32.57 in restitution for stealing an hour of his work time while having sex with the woman.

DA's office: Story changed

Prosecutors dropped the felony sexual assault charges because there was insufficient evidence to prove the acts happened. The district attorney's office said Newton "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."

On Monday, Newton said she didn't tell the investigators or the criminal grand jury "other things that Mr. Gaines had done to me in my room." But she declined to discuss those details with The Bee.

Newton said initially she revealed the only details she could remember because she was suffering from mental anguish as a result of the alleged assault.

In August, she 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.

Newton said the result of the criminal case does not change the status of her civil lawsuit, which she intends to pursue. However, she had not spoken with her attorney since last week's plea deal in the criminal case, she said.

The federal court suspended the civil case until the criminal case was completed.

Mary Lynn Belsher, Gaines' criminal defense attorney, has said she will hand over to Gaines' civil attorney all the evidence she collected in the criminal case to defeat Newton's claims.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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