A Los Angeles County sex crimes investigator accused of raping a teenager after having been assigned to investigate her previous sexual assault allegations has pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and is expected to be sentenced to three years in prison.
It was at least the third time the detective, Neil David Kimball of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was accused of misconduct while on duty, though he was not charged as a result of the first two allegations.
District Attorney Gregory Totten of Ventura County, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement that Kimball, 46, met the then-15-year-old victim in 2017 when she reported a sexual assault.
He befriended her and then sexually assaulted her, according to the statement.
Kimball was originally charged with raping the victim while she was tied or bound. Kimball was also accused of “witness intimidation by threat of force”.
But Patrice Koenig, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, said that prosecutors later determined they could not prove that Kimball had used force during the encounter, which she said took place in his trailer in Camarillo, in southern Ventura County.
The girl did not report the encounter. Rather, when a different officer took over her case about a year later, her father told the new investigator about the assault, Ms Koenig said.
Kimball pleaded guilty last week to a lewd act with a child and unlawful sexual intercourse, and is expected to be sentenced to three years in prison at his next appearance, on 8 August. He must also register as a sex offender.
In a statement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that Kimball’s pay was suspended in March and that it was seeking to terminate him immediately. A lawyer for Kimball declined to comment.
Kimball’s plea comes just more than a month after Sara Abusheikh, a Los Angeles fashion designer, wrote in a post on Medium about her experience with the detective after she was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance in 2014, and reported it to the authorities.
Kimball was assigned to her case, but she wrote that he never investigated, and instead said wildly inappropriate things to her.
Ms Abusheikh wrote that Kimball teased her about going back to her assailant and suggested she “let him make love to you gently”.
“His only interest in the details of my rape came in the form of perverse, sick questions, and he – most tellingly – suggested he come inside to get high,” she wrote.
She later filed a restraining order against her assailant, which led Kimball to joke that she was paranoid, she wrote. When she reported his inappropriate behaviour to his supervisor, word got back to Kimball immediately, she added.
The next summer, after getting help from a rape treatment centre, she met with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which declined to prosecute the case, she wrote.
A deputy district attorney told her Kimball was “a fine detective” and insisted there was no evidence to back up her claim, she wrote.
“And the Special Victims Bureau? It only functioned to protect not one, but two, alleged rapists,” Ms Abusheikh concluded in her essay.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to comment on Ms Abusheikh’s post.
Last year, Ms Abusheikh shared screenshots of text messages she said were from Kimball with The Daily Beast, as well as records of email exchanges with lawyers and patient advocates from the rape treatment centre. She did not return calls or respond to messages seeking further comment.
Kimball, a 20-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, was assigned to the Special Victims Bureau in 2013, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The bureau has been involved in high-profile cases, including accusations by a young actor that he was sexually abused by Asia Argento, a leading figure in the #MeToo movement, who had herself accused the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She denied the allegations.
In 2009, Kimball was investigated for sexual battery but not charged after an episode at a hotel the previous year, The Los Angeles Times reported.
According to the report, which was based on a prosecutor’s memo, the detective had questioned a group of friends in a parking lot.
Afterward, women in the group and Kimball went to a hotel room, where some of the women stripped down to their underwear and got into a hot tub as he encouraged them, the memo stated.
It also said that one woman accused the detective of grabbing her hand and trying to place it on his genitals.
But no charges were filed. Witnesses gave contradictory statements, there was a lack of evidence and the complainant failed to cooperate with investigators, the memo said.
Greg Risling, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County district attorney, confirmed that the office had declined to prosecute Kimball over the hotel incident. In an email, he said that no other cases involving the detective were under review.
The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office had also urged any additional victims to come forward, Ms Koenig said, but none did so.
Asked last year why Kimball was selected to serve in the Special Victims Bureau even after the 2008 hotel allegations, the sheriff’s department told The Los Angeles Times it would “conduct a review of the internal process” related to the assignment.
The department did not respond to a question about the outcome of that review.
Grier Weeks, senior executive at the National Association to Protect Children, a non-profit in Knoxville, Tennessee, that pushes for child protection laws, said that the sentence was too light considering the severity of the crime.
“There should be more severe penalties for people in positions of authority or trust who assault a child,” he said. “It’s something that has to be treated as the most serious type of assault.”
New York Times