Ex-Modesto cop pleads not guilty to sexual assault charges
04/06/2012 12:22 PM
04/06/2012 10:39 PM
A former Modesto police officer accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a motel room pleaded not guilty to three felony charges Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Lee Freddie Gaines II, 27, was arrested March 15 on suspicion of oral copulation by force, being armed with a firearm while committing a sexual offense, sexual battery and assault under color of authority. He posted $325,000 bail and remains free as he awaits his trial.
The alleged victim is a 37-year-old woman who said she works as a massage therapist at a local motel.
The woman has told The Bee that the incident occurred the night of Jan. 5 after she got a call for service and the officer came to her motel room. She said the officer handcuffed her and demanded oral sex.
Authorities have declined to discuss the evidence in the case against Gaines, who was a Modesto police officer for five years. An internal investigation by the department began Jan. 8; Gaines resigned Feb. 10.
Judge Marie Silveira scheduled a hearing May 1 to hear arguments and determine whether to seal a transcript of the criminal grand jury proceeding that led to the indictment against Gaines.
The Stanislaus County district attorney's office presented its case before the grand jury instead of laying out evidence in a preliminary hearing. Once the indictment is issued, a trial date can be scheduled.
Mary Lynn Belsher, Gaines' defense attorney, filed a motion March 29 to seal the grand jury transcript until her client's case is completed, arguing that publicly releasing the documents would prevent Gaines from receiving a fair trial.
Karl Olsen, a San Francisco attorney representing The Bee, responded with a brief arguing that the public should have access to the grand jury transcript.
During Friday morning's hearing, Silveira said she has read the grand jury transcript and must consider the alleged victim's privacy.
"That doesn't mean I have decided anything," the judge told the attorneys.
Olsen told the judge that the alleged victim first described the incident in a phone conversation she initiated with The Bee. The newspaper has not published her name because of the nature of the alleged crime.
Silveira said she needs time to review The Bee's motion and Belsher's response, weighing the interests of the alleged victim, the defendant, The Bee and the public before making a decision. "It's a very serious matter," Silveira said.
The judge ordered the grand jury transcript to remain temporarily sealed and asked Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris to inform the alleged victim of the argument over the transcript.
Harris told the judge he already has spoken to the alleged victim about the issue and said she is not likely to oppose public release of the transcript.
Last week, an attorney for the alleged victim filed a claim against the city seeking $4 million in damages.
Fresno attorney Jacob Rivas, who specializes in civil rights cases, filed the claim against Gaines, the Police Department and the city. The claim identifies the woman as Jane Doe.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.
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