The Southern California city of Brawley will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit by a woman who accused a police officer of rape after he arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence, her attorneys said Wednesday.
The civil lawsuit filed in 2021 alleged former Brawley police Officer Ricardo Gabriel Valdez drove the woman back to her home in a patrol car, where she woke up to him having sex with her. Valdez left the DUI citation on her bedside when he left, according to the woman’s complaint.
“This horrible incident has changed my life, and I am glad I can begin to put it behind me,” the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, said in a statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “I am discouraged and upset that a police officer took advantage of his badge.”
Attorneys for the woman called the officer’s actions “brazen, malicious, sadistic, offensive to human dignity and cruel.”
The officer’s sperm was found in the woman’s home, according to the lawsuit. Valdez admitted to having sex with the woman but claimed it had been consensual, the court filing said.
Valdez was criminally charged in 2020 with multiple felonies including sexual battery, rape and burglary. The charges were dropped the following year.
Court records don’t explain why the case was dismissed, but the Times cites local media reports that said prosecutors told a judge investigators had found “exculpatory information” that “question gravely the credibility of the complaining witness.”
Valdez was placed on administrative leave during the investigation. He later resigned from the force.
Brawley officials, and attorneys representing the city in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment about the settlement. Attorneys representing Valdez also did not respond.
Brawley, a city with more than 26,000 residents, is about 30 miles (48 km) north of the U.S.-Mexico border.