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Santa Maria Settles Lawsuit with Former Police Explorer

City pays $185,000 to teen who alleges she was forced to have sex with police officer

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

The City of Santa Maria has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a teenage girl who claimed a police officer threatened and raped her several times before being fatally shot by colleagues trying to arrest him earlier this year.

Albert Covarrubias Jr.
Albert Covarrubias Jr.

Santa Maria City Attorney Gilbert Trujillo said in a statement this week that $185,000 will be paid to the 17-year-old girl and her attorneys, plus the costs of mediation.

Trujillo called the settlement “an effort to move forward and put this unfortunate chain of events behind us.”

Jane Doe, as the girl is identified in the court documents, was participating in the Santa Maria Police Department’s Explorer Program, designed for young people with an interest in law enforcement careers.

The federal lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 7, alleges that 29-year-old police officer Albert Covarrubias Jr. used his position of authority to rape and sexually harass her.

“Unfortunately, there are no winners in this situation, and the city sees this settlement as a just resolution to a very tragic situation,” Trujillo said in the statement.

The suit filed by attorneys with Goldberg and Gage, a Woodland Hills firm, also names members of the city Police Department and the estate of Officer Albert Covarrubias Jr. Gloria Covarrubias is sued as the representative of her late husband’s estate.

The Police Department and city are accused of lack of training and supervision and negligence in the lawsuit.

When police found out about the relationship between Jane Doe and Covarrubias, they interviewed her and went to arrest Covarrubias in the early morning hours of Jan. 28 while he was on duty at a DUI checkpoint.

He resisted, pulled his weapon and was then fatally shot by a fellow officer and friend, Officer Matt Kline, according to the District Attorney Office report on the incident.

In Jane Doe’s lawsuit, she alleges that from late December 2011 until Jan. 29, 2012, Covarrubias “embarked upon a nefarious scheme to intimidate and rape” Jane Doe by using his authority as a police officer, building a relationship of trust and spending time alone with her.

Covarrubias was assigned to train Jane Doe for the Explorer Program, and they spent time alone together, according to the complaint.

He made unwanted sexual advances, threatened to kill her boyfriend and family if she did not have sex with him, and she was assaulted multiple times in January, the lawsuit alleges.

As part of the police investigation, investigators had Jane Doe call Covarrubias less than an hour before he was killed, according to the report.

The suit states Jane Doe experienced “significant emotional distress” because of the negligent manner the investigation and Covarrubias’ arrest were conducted.

Jane Doe’s complaint asked for damages to compensate for loss of earning and employment opportunity, medical expenses, legal expenses, litigation costs and attorneys’ fees, interest, damages caused by deprivation of constitutional rights, civil penalties and punitive damages.

The complaint also sought damages for deprivation of right to be free of sexual assault, violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments, lack of training to the point of indifference for the Police Department, negligent supervision and sexual harassment.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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» on 11.28.12 @ 12:54 AM

It’s probably appropriate for the city to give this girl some money and make her and this nightmare go away as soon as possible. I do agree with her lawyers that the way SMPD conducted their investigation into this matter was negligent, and the actions of the now recently-retired Lt. Flores added significantly to the department’s negligence.

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