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Former Bell police officer pleads guilty to sex assault

July 17, 2009 |  2:46 pm

Bell Police - Sanchez photo A former officer with the Bell Police Department has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a female motorist, a federal crime for which he faces as many as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, said officials with the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

Feliciano Sanchez, 34, admitted that he stopped a woman for a traffic violation in May 2007 and took her in his patrol car to a location where he placed his hand on his duty weapon and forced her to provide oral sex, prosecutors said.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Sanchez last year on one count each of deprivation of rights under color of law and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. But jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

Since then, prosecutors have received more evidence against Sanchez and would have moved to try him again if he had not pleaded guilty, Mrozek said.

“We agreed to resolve this case by his guilty plea,” Mrozek said. "We believe it is an appropriate sentence. . . . This was an egregious violation of this woman’s civil rights.”

Mrozek said prosecutors thought it was particularly important to pursue the case against Sanchez because he was police officer.

“The message . . . is that this type of behavior will not be tolerated,” he said. “Both prosecutors and investigators will do everything in their ability to investigate, prosecute and incarcerate people who violate their sworn oath to uphold the law.”

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November.

-- Ann M. Simmons

Photo: Feliciano Sanchez. Credit: U.S. attorney's office