June 12–OAKLAND — The Oakland police sex scandal is ricocheting across the East Bay as the woman at the center of it now says she had sex with two dozen current and former officers from five departments — from Richmond to Livermore. And sources say that Oakland police’s botched handling of the investigation is what precipitated Chief Sean Whent’s sudden departure this week at the behest of the federal monitor overseeing the department.
In a telephone interview on Saturday, Celeste Guap, a Richmond resident, said she slept with three of the 24 officers — all from Oakland’s police department — before she turned 18 last August.
She also said that two Oakland officers provided her confidential police information, including tips on scheduled anti-prostitution stings, and a retired OPD captain in his 80s paid $250 to have sex with her in a dingy San Pablo Avenue motel. The captain and several other officers named by Guap did not return calls for comment.
Guap, whose real name this paper won’t publish because she met the officers as an exploited minor caught up in sex work, said she didn’t lie about her age to them.
“A lot knew I was underage because they nicknamed me ‘juve,’ which is short for juvenile,” she said.
In perhaps the most surprising allegation — one that might help explain Whent’s sudden dismissal as chief — Guap said she also talked via Facebook last June to his wife, Julia Whent.
Julia Whent, she said, knew “I was dating an officer” but never asked if she was underage. Those conversations occurred months before the department’s federal overseer, Robert Warshaw, became aware of the allegations.
Multiple sources said Warshaw pressured Whent to resign on Thursday, furious over his handling of the case. No one answered the door at Whent’s home in Brentwood on Saturday afternoon.
The scandal is a crippling blow to a department that has struggled for decades to win the trust of residents and has been under federal oversight for 13 years in part because of failures to adequately hold officers accountable for misdeeds.
“To think that officers were engaged in the sexual exploitation of a child: It’s heartbreaking,” City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said. “And if it’s true, it’s criminal, and they should be prosecuted.”
Mayor Libby Schaaf, whom council members are criticizing for not informing them of the allegations, first reported by the East Bay Express, did not return phone calls on Saturday. In a statement, Schaaf, who last month asked Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to investigate the case, said she would not disclose details of an ongoing investigation, which could “impede our ability to reach the truth and secure the strongest judgments against those responsible.” Oakland last month placed four officers on leave in connection with Guap’s allegations, two of whom have since resigned.
Other departments now appear to be caught up in the scandal as well.
Guap said she slept with five Richmond police officers, including a lieutenant and two sergeants, four Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, one Livermore officer and a law enforcement worker based in Stockton.
Richmond police Chief Allwyn Brown said Saturday his department recently learned that “several” officers communicated electronically with Guap, but so far it appears she was 18 or older at those times.
“We have more questions than we have answers,” Brown said, adding that the investigation is just beginning. “We have no tolerance for unethical behavior or misconduct.”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, which had already looked into one deputy’s alleged involvement with Guap, hasn’t received any complaints from her or other law enforcement agencies, Sgt. Ray Kelly said.
“If Guap had sex with our officers and it was legal, then we will not pursue any type of investigation,” Kelly said. “If our officers paid for sexual services with Ms. Guap, then that would be illegal and unethical.”
Anthony Ribera, a retired San Francisco police chief, said he would have conducted an investigation to determine whether Guap had been exploited.
“The big question is did they use their authority as police officers to get her to engage in sexual favors,” he said. “Would they have had the same relationship if they were Joe the corner custodian?”
Guap, whose mother is an Oakland police dispatcher, said she began selling herself on the streets of Richmond at age 12. A pimp later moved her to Oakland’s infamous sex trafficking hub on International Boulevard.
It was there that she met Officer Brendan O’Brien, whom she said protected her when she was running from her pimp. Guap said the two began a sexual relationship, and others soon followed.
“They were my protectors,” she said. “I didn’t have a pimp at the time. It did make me feel safer, having them.”
She said that Officer Terryl Smith, one of the two officers who resigned from the department earlier this year, gave her arrest records and other confidential information. Smith, she said, had a mattress in his off-duty car, and they had sex inside it about once a week for three months after he finished his shift at 2 a.m. Smith could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
Another officer, who never gave her his name, tipped her off to undercover prostitution stings, according to text messages Guap shared with Bay Area News Group. Under the screen name “Superman,” the officer wrote, “Want some advice? Stay off E14 from Fruitvale to 42 (nd Avenue) tonight. There’s a UC (an undercover) operation.”
For police leaders, giving out details of confidential operations is nearly as big a sin as sexual abuse, because it puts other officers in danger, said Eugene O’Donnell, a criminal justice professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “That is hard-core corruption,” O’Donnell said. “You’re talking about lives being lost, people being hurt.”
Barry Donelan, president of Oakland’s police union, said he was “mortified and deeply embarrassed” by the allegations.
“If any of this is true, it is an absolute betrayal of what we stand for,” he said.
Police opened up an Internal Affairs investigation after Officer O’Brien committed suicide last September and left a note naming officers involved with Guap.
Warshaw learned of the suicide and sex allegations several months later, and his boss, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, issued an order in March blasting the department’s handling of the investigation.
The irony of Whent’s downfall is that three years ago, Warshaw had pushed him for the chief’s job because of his stellar record overseeing the department’s troubled Internal Affairs division.
John Burris, a civil rights attorney who negotiated the department’s federal oversight regime after the infamous Riders police scandal in 2000, said Whent should have been more upfront with Warshaw from the beginning and questioned what role his wife’s online conversations with Guap may have played in his departure.
“If his wife is involved in something like this, he should have disclosed it right up front and stepped away from the investigation immediately,” Burris said. “If he had done that, I think he would have been fine.”
Guap didn’t provide many details about her conversations with Julia Whent other than that the chief’s wife mentioned that one of her daughters was interested in becoming a dispatcher, like Guap’s mother.
With the investigation still ongoing, Guap said she has been disappointed in the officers’ statements to police officials. “They lied about knowing me or how much they were involved with me,” she said. “I guess that’s what you are going to do to protect your job.”
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435. Follow him on Twitter at Matthew_Artz.
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