Chain | Cohn | Stiles has settled a lawsuit arising out of the sexual assault of a young woman by former KCSO deputy Gabriel Lopez in March 2013. The case, which settled for $1 million with the County of Kern, comes on the heels of another settlement with the County of Kern for $3.4 million in the wrongful death of David Silva.
After Lopez sexually assaulted two young women, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation, which confirmed the allegations made against him. He was then charged by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, and on Sept. 2, 2015, he was sentenced to two years in prison. He will also have to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.
The lawfirm's statement:
“We think this is a fair settlement given the emotional distress that our client has suffered to date and will continue to suffer from for the rest of her life,” said Neil Gehlawat, one of the attorneys from Chain | Cohn | Stiles representing the young woman. “Our hope is that this settlement brings some closure to what has undoubtedly been a traumatic chapter of her life. We also hope that this settlement sends a strong message that no one, including law enforcement officers, is above the law.”
The troubling part of the civil case is that shortly after the incident occurred, a litigation coordinator from the County of Kern along with other KCSO officials went to both victims’ homes and tried to pay them off. Our client was ultimately offered $10,000 to settle her case, but she refused. The other victim agreed to take $5,000 to settle her case, without first being able to consult with an attorney. The $1 million settlement is 100 times the amount our client was offered before she retained an attorney and 200 times the amount the other victim was paid.
“It is preposterous to me that the County attempted to buy off these poor victims, when
they knew full and well that these victims were recently sexual assaulted and still emotionally vulnerable,” said David Cohn with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “The buy-offs have been a longstanding practice for the County, and out of respect for the process and for victims of sexual assault, I hope the County will put an end to this practice.”