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Monday, May 28, 2012

Woman Says Fear Led Her to Comply with Cop's Sexual Demands

Woman: Fear led her to comply with Denver cop's sexual demands 
The Denver Post by Jessica Fender - May 24, 2012
"I was thinking, 'Oh, my God, what if he kills me?' He's a cop. He could say anything." - Valerie Arend 

He wore a badge and a gun. And when the Denver police officer demanded sex in the front seat of his squad car two years ago, according to Valerie Arend, she felt she had to comply with his demands. "On the street, if he was just anybody, I would have run. I would have fought. I would have done what I needed to do," Arend told The Denver Post in her first public interview about the incident. "With him being a police officer, no way." Arend's allegation — that after a traffic stop, a cop demanded sex in exchange for not taking her to jail — led to rape and kidnapping charges against Denver police Officer Hector Paez, 32. The criminal case is on hold after a mistrial last fall, and in the interim, Arend has filed a lawsuit against Paez. Against that backdrop, Arend spoke publicly for the first time about the incident and how it has affected her life and health. She agreed to be named publicly. Many criminal rape trials come down to he-said, she-said, and in this case, the civil suit and Arend's subsequent conviction for prostitution are likely to harm her credibility in court. Paez, who could not be reached for comment, has maintained in court that he is innocent of the rape and kidnapping charges filed against him. His attorney, Gary Lozow, declined to discuss specifics regarding Arend's allegations. "We will have our day in court on the criminal case and on the civil case," Lozow said. "At the end of the day, maybe there's some justice now. "The jury will know about the financial motive in the case." Arend, 37, said she and her boyfriend planned to hit Denver's Blue Bonnet Cafe for dinner the evening of May 16, 2010. As she arrived at a nearby light- rail station to wait for him, she said, a police officer drove up, nearly pulling onto the sidewalk to block her path. There had been a report of a suspicious female, Arend recalls him saying. When he ran her identification, a warrant for her arrest popped up. Court records show that Arend — who has long struggled with addiction — has a history dating to the 1990s of running into mostly misdemeanor trouble every few years, most frequently for drug, alcohol or driving offenses. Probation warrant - That May evening, Jefferson County had issued a warrant for a probation violation related to a charge of false reporting to a pawnbroker. Arend told The Post she was unaware of the warrant at the time. She frantically texted her boyfriend that she was going to jail. But instead, Arend said, the officer drove her through Denver's back streets and alleys — first handcuffed in the backseat, then uncuffed in the passenger seat — before stopping to demand oral sex. "You know what to do," he said, according to Arend. Arend said she complied out of fear. "I was thinking, 'Oh, my God, what if he kills me?' He's a cop. He could say anything," Arend said. Afterward, she said, she vomited out the passenger door. Arend said the officer told her he knew where she lived — and that if she reported him, he vowed to "take you out." She took off running down the unfamiliar alley where they had stopped. Many rape victims do not come forward, but Arend said she thought of the man victimizing other women — or worse, her own teenage daughter. A day or two later, she was retelling her tale to a Denver internal-affairs investigator. "At first, I didn't know. I thought, 'If I do this, is it going to shred me and make me look terrible because I've been in some trouble in my life? And he could still be free doing that to other girls,' " Arend said. "But if you do the right thing, hopefully good things will follow." Since the alleged incident, Arend has successfully completed probation and found work cleaning homes and helping at a friend's roofing business, she said. But she doesn't sleep at night. She takes medication for depression, suffers stress-induced nausea and attends counseling multiple times a month. She has moved to Lakewood and stays out of Denver as much as possible for fear of retribution from Denver police officers. Three months after the alleged sexual assault, Arend pleaded guilty to a prostitution charge. A police officer observed Arend and a man, whose pants were unzipped, sitting in a parked car, according to the summons. The officer said Arend admitted to being a prostitute. She said she wasn't guilty but pleaded because she was "scared to death" to remain in Denver County Jail. Her anxiety has been compounded by a series of delays that also prompted the civil suit, said Daniel M. Murphy, one of her attorneys. The suit seeks damages to be determined at a civil trial, though Paez has been on unpaid leave from the Denver Police Department since his October 2010 arrest. "This is an obscene and horrific event, and Valerie wants to be heard on this," Murphy said. "Based on the way the criminal case is proceeding, she's frustrated. She wants justice." In September, mishandled evidence led to a mistrial in the criminal case. Earlier this month, Paez's criminal trial was rescheduled once more after Lozow was injured in a serious car accident. The delays pushed the new trial date — now slated for November — well past the deadline to file a civil lawsuit, Murphy said. Simultaneous cases -  Having both civil and criminal cases pending at the same time can put the prosecution in an awkward position at trial, said defense lawyer Nikea Bland, who specializes in cases involving sex crimes. She said defense attorneys look for anything they can to show an alleged victim has an ulterior motive or may not be credible. Arend said she knows there's a chance jurors will doubt her. "I'm very anxious (to go to trial), but I'm nervous and scared too," Arend said. "There's always the chance that someone won't believe me, that they'll want to believe the police officer. "He's supposed to be the good guy." Jessica Fender: 303-954-1244 or

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