Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant has Been Convicted of Harassing an Ex-Girlfriend in Phone Calls and Text Messages
A Fullerton man, who happens to also be a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department, has been convicted of harassing an ex-girlfriend in phone calls and text messages.
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Houman Fakhimi is not surprised at the conviction, given one of the defendant's chosen methods of communications: texts.
The problem with text messages is that they are so easy to fire off and forget about. In the heat of an argument or disagreement, it takes seconds to shoot off an ill-worded message. The other thing is with electronic communication, you lose a great deal of context and tone.
For example, you say, "I'm gonna kill you." Now, on a phone message, you may be able to easily convey by your tone or in the context of an entire spoken message that you're kidding or didn't really mean it. But with a text message, that's not possible.
The other thing about text messages is that even if you forget about or delete them, they don't really go away forever. The obvious way that they remain a problem for your harassment defense is if the alleged victim keeps it. That message could also be forwarded or shown to police. But even if that person deletes the message. police can obtain a warrant to have those messages released by the phone company. When they do that, all of your messages become subject to review.
So in essence, you've convicted yourself.
There are ways that a skilled defense lawyer can combat this evidence (namely by trying to keep it out of court) but that can be tough because if you hit send on that message, it no longer becomes your sole property.
In this case, the officer sent his girlfriend text messages indicating he wanted to kill both her and her new boyfriend. This was in the fall of last year.
In addition to those texts, prosecutors had phone records indicating he had called his ex more than 25 times over a certain period.
The officer reportedly pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of annoying and harassing phone calls. He won't serve any jail time, but he will have to serve three years of probation, complete community service work and attend a year-long batterer's intervention program. Additionally, he'll could be fired from his job. He is currently on unpaid leave, according to a department spokesman.
California's stalking and harassment laws are found in California Penal Code Section 646.9 PC.
While we often think of stalking as a celebrity infliction, it's more often than not stemming from a case like this, where a romantic relationship has soured.
Depending on the severity of the case, a harassment or stalking charge can be filed either as a misdemeanor or a felony. If there was a protection order in place, it automatically becomes a felony, and you could be facing up to five years in prison. Same thing if it is your second conviction for the same offense.
Additionally, there need only be two alleged incidents to be considered harassment.
The bottom line is that threats against anyone are never a good idea, no matter how wronged you've been or how angry you are. But if you do make them, don't provide evidence against yourself by putting those threats in a form of electronic communication or texts.