Cop Giovanni LoVerde, left, with his attorney, Michael Cardoza.
This afternoon, the attorney representing two Oakland cops accused of sexual misconduct introduced what might be described as unconventional defense strategies.
In the case of Oakland Officer Giovanni LoVerde, who is charged with receiving oral sex from a minor, Celeste Guap, his attorney flat-out claimed that he “never met" the victim at the center of the department’s misconduct scandal.
And in the case of Officer Ryan Walterhouse, who was arrested earlier this week for soliciting a sex worker and alerting her to sting operations, the same attorney says that his client was simply "doing his job" cultivating an undercover source.
These developments took place this afternoon at the Hayward Hall of Justice, where Walterhouse and LoVerde entered not guilty pleas to prostitution-related felony and misdemeanor charges.
Michael Cardoza, their defense attorney who worked as a prosecutor in Alameda, Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, alleged that both men are innocent, and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley is pursuing their cases for political gain.
LoVerde, a 33-year-old father of two who joined OPD in 2013, and Walterhouse, a 26-year-old Oakland native and former baseball standout at Bishop O'Dowd High School who signed on with the department in 2014, were both released on bail. Neither officer spoke to the press. Both are on paid leave from the department.
Officer Ryan Walterhouse (left) and attorney Cardoza.
Cardoza has come forward with the most aggressive defense of any of the six East Bay officers charged with crimes against Guap.
The attorney described his clients as “targets” and their cases as “political.” Cardoza also claimed that LoVerde never encountered Guap or received oral sex from her, for which he is facing a felony charge.
“I will tell you here and now, he never met her — he did not do what he's accused of,” Cardoza said. “You will hear the truth of what happened, how political this is, and why the DA is bringing charges against an innocent police officer.”
In a bail motion reviewed by the Express
, Cardoza claimed that Guap repeatedly told OPD investigators that she and LoVerde never had sex. “In June of 2016, Jane Doe claimed for the first time that she had performed oral sex on Mr. LoVerde,” Cardoza's motion reads. “In July 2016 when Jane Doe was confronted about her contradicting statements, she refused to answer any questions about Mr. LoVerde. In August 2016, Jane Doe was interviewed again by the Alameda County District Attorney's office and the OPD Internal Affairs Division. In both the subsequent interviews, Jane Doe denied having oral sex with Mr. LoVerde.”
LoVerde was identified by the Express
earlier this year as one of the officers who slept with the young woman known as Guap, a 19-year-old Richmond resident who dozens of Bay Area police officers and sheriff's deputies allegedly exploited.
Current Oakland Police Officer Luis Roman told the Express
that LoVerde had a sexual relationship with Guap. Other officers who spoke to the Express on the condition of anonymity confirmed that LoVerde frequently showed revealing photos of Guap to officers he joined on patrol, and bragged about having sex with her. Guap also told the Express in a telephone interview that she had sexual relations with LoVerde.
On Wednesday, Walterhouse was arrested and charged with soliciting a sex worker and tipping her off to multiple sting operations, months after the Celeste Guap scandal made international headlines. Per the statement of probable cause filed in Alameda County Superior Court, a fellow Oakland cop reported Walterhouse's behavior to the department.
He was placed under surveillance, and allegedly paid the sex worker for sexual intercourse at a Castro Valley motel on October 1. Two days later, Walterhouse told the same sex worker over the phone that she “might want to call it an early night tonight ... you might want to stick to the online thing right now ... because they're all over the lower numbers right now,” referring to an area of East Oakland along International Boulevard known for prostitution. The next day, Walterhouse texted the same woman and warned her not to be on the street.
In his remarks to the press, Cardoza claimed that Walterhouse was cultivating the sex worker he is accused of sleeping with and tipping off as an informant. “He was doing his job, I will explain that in trial, but he was in the course of doing his job in what they're accusing him of doing. I will explain all that to the jury,” Cardoza said of Walterhouse's alleged solicitation of a sex worker, who he then tipped off to multiple sting operations.
Cardoza's defense may be complicated by Walterhouse's admission of guilt when he was taken into custody on Wednesday, October 19. “Walterhouse confessed to providing Doe with information about the cover prostitution operations to keep her from going to charges,” reads the probable cause declaration for the rookie's arrest.
This morning, OPD Officer Brian Bunton also appeared in court for the continuance of his felony and misdemeanor charges for sleeping with Guap and passing her information about prostitution stings. His case was continued to December 9. Both LoVerde and Walterhouse have court dates in early December.
Former Oakland Police Officer Terryl Smith and current Oakland Police Officer Warit Uttapa were named last month by O'Malley as individuals she intends to charge with criminal conduct for their involvement with Guap, but neither man has been charged to date. The Contra Costa District Attorney is investigating potential criminal conduct by both Smith and Uttapa that took place in their jurisdiction.