The 19-year-old at the center of a law enforcement sexual exploitation case is suing in federal court the city of Richmond, police officials and officers.
It’s the first litigation of its kind in the far-reaching case involving Richmond teen Jasmine Abuslin, who is also known by the name Celeste Guap. She has testified in a separate criminal case that she began work in the sex trade at age 12, and she appears to be a victim of child sex trafficking.
Her attorney, John Burris, named current Richmond Police Chief Allwyn Brown, former Chief Chris Magnus and Lt. Brian Dickerson as defendants for what he says was a failure to supervise and stop sexual misconduct on the part of at least five other Richmond police officers.
“Our claim is really not just against the officers themselves, but what the officers were allowed to do on the part of people who were in a position to stop this conduct but did not do so at an earlier point,” Burris said at a Friday news conference announcing the lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday.
Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay declined to comment on the active litigation, and Chief Brown did not return a call seeking comment.
Abuslin’s attorneys filed legal claims — generally a precursor to lawsuits — against Oakland, Richmond, Livermore and San Francisco, as well as Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Oakland settled the claim against it in May for $989,000.
Several current and former Oakland officers face criminal charges in Alameda County related to the case, in addition to a former Contra Costa sheriff’s deputy. But no Richmond officers were criminally charged in Alameda or Contra Costa County.
“Each case is unique. We found no conspiracies,” Police Chief Brown wrote in a report on his department’s investigation last September. “The facts show individual, unconnected, non-criminal engagements and other activities that violate multiple Department policies and the professional Code of Ethics on the part of several RPD officers.”
The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that Officer Terrance Jackson met Abuslin when she was in high school and he was assigned as a school resource officer. They allegedly discussed Abuslin’s work in the sex trade, but Jackson did not attempt to help the sex-trafficked minor. After she left high school, Jackson allegedly fondled her, according to the lawsuit.
Lt. Andre Hill, a former Richmond police spokesman, also allegedly met Abuslin when she was in high school.
“Shortly thereafter, he started grooming her, preparing her for his sexual advances,” the lawsuit says. “He would routinely call her and tell her to stand in the front picture window of her home that faces the street. He would instruct her to disrobe and flash her breasts at him while he drove by.”
The lawsuit goes on to allege that Abuslin had sex with Hill “in exchange for receiving protection and confidential information from Officer Hill.”
Richmond Sgt. Armando Moreno allegedly met Abuslin while patrolling an area known for sex trafficking.
“[T]he two exchanged phone numbers, with Officer Moreno promising to connect [Abuslin] with resources that could help her out of the sex exploitation industry,” the lawsuit says. “As events unfolded, this promise was merely a ploy to gain [Abuslin’s] confidence in order to obtain sexual favors.”
Moreno allegedly gave Abuslin some pamphlets “that could assist her with getting out of the ‘life,’ ” according to the lawsuit. But later, in spring 2016, their relationship became sexual. Moreno also allegedly shared a police report with Abuslin about a sexual assault against one of her friends.
The lawsuit accuses Moreno of texting Abuslin to alert her of a prostitution sting operation, but she was detained before she could leave.
“Consistent with the protection [Abuslin] received in exchange for sexual favors, the Officer immediately released her without issuing a citation or arresting her,” the lawsuit says.
Sgt. Mike Rood allegedly met Abuslin for sex several times in early 2016, according to the lawsuit.
“He confided in her his foot fetish and would often text and/or call to ask questions about her feet,” the complaint says. “Defendant Rood knew [Abuslin] was a sex worker and took advantage of his status as a police officer by coercing her into having sexual encounters in exchange for providing her protection from arrest and prosecution.”
Officer Jerrod Tong met Abuslin through social media, according to the lawsuit, which is a way Abuslin met many law enforcement officers, according to her testimony at a recent preliminary hearing in a criminal case. Tong allegedly visited Abuslin while he was on duty, and then continued to meet her near her home for sex.
“Officer Tong supported and promoted [Abuslin’s] prostitution activities,” the lawsuit says. “For example, he would ask her to send him pictures and suggest outfits and poses for her prostitution ads.”
Burris said Friday that the scale of the case goes well beyond Richmond.
“There were a number of officers in Oakland, a number of officers in Richmond, some officers in Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department, some officers in Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, Livermore, as well as at least two in San Francisco,” Burris said. “And it was as if this young woman was being passed around as if she was a sex slave that was available at these men’s beck and calls.”
Burris said the lawsuit against Richmond won’t likely be the last in the wide-ranging case. Legal claims against Contra Costa and Alameda counties as well as San Francisco and Livermore have yet to be settled.
“Certainly some of them are going to be sued, but I don’t know how many of them,” Burris said.
Read the complaint below.