(Author’s note: there is some editorializing in this story. The opinions are mine. Unless Bell is quoted saying something, don’t put my words in his mouth. – DN)
Following last Monday’s story detailing the likely role an LAPD Sargent took covering up his daughter’s deadly hit and run crash, Streetsblog received a lot of email. Letters from friends of the slain victim, Jesse Dotson, were the most common. But a depressing interchange with attorney Allan Bell, retired police officer and the Senior Trial Attorney at The Law Offices of Allen J. Bell & Associates, shows that the deck is stacked against justice when it comes to prosecuting Sgt. Arturo Yanez for his role in covering up his daughter’s crime.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, in late June Jesse Dotson was bicycling to work when he was struck by a hit and run driver. The car belonged to Vanessa Yanez, the daughter of LAPD Sgt. Arturo Yanez. Four hours after the crash, Yanez reported her car stolen and returned to a lot near her house. The crash occurred 16 miles away.
When the Gardena police charged Vanessa Yanez with a host of crimes, including vehicular manslaughter, bail was set at $100,000 but she was released on her own recognizance despite the fact that the police believe she killed someone, ran from the crime, and lied about a stolen car.
As for Sgt. Yanez, he lives with his daughter and actually owns the car that killed Dotson. He either believes his daughter’s ridiculous story and is one of the worst investigative officers ever, or he is complicit in the scheme to report the car stolen. Gardena police state they are not investigating Sgt. Yanez, but LAPD opened its own investigation.
I was relieved that LAPD was investigating, but Bell set me straight that there is little good news for fans of traffic justice.
First, Bell easily refutes my claim from last week that the LAPD review could strengthen Gardena’s police department’s case against Sgt. Yanez.
“…they will not share the internal investigation report with other agencies,” Bell explained. “It is protected as a police personnel file by statute and cannot be released as a matter of law. There are motions that could be filed in court to address a potential release of the internal affairs file, but i highly doubt that fight will occur.”
But even if Yanez is as incompetent covering up his role in the first cover-up and manages to be convicted, Los Angeles will still be on the hook for his pension. Even a felony won’t stop the city from its obligation to pay for the retirement of a crooked cop.
“On LAPD, if you are already vested, i.e., have put in the time needed to qualify for a pension, lets say 20 years for example, and are convicted of a felony, either on duty or off duty, you still get your pension,” Bell continued. “There has been talk over the years to pass legislation to change this, but LAPD has a strong legislative presence.”
The best we can hope for is that the Gardena Police Department, who have been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently, rise to the occasion and properly investigate and charge the Sargent as well as the daughter. However, a mess or legal red tape might make investigation and prosecution nigh impossible.
Some people say that justice is blind. In this case, the blindfolds are made out of laws designed to protect law breaking cops.