One teenager is ready to testify against dozens of California cops, alleging they abused their power and used her for sex. But she wound up in a Florida jail after one accused department arranged for her to go to rehab.
The woman, who goes by the alias Celeste Guap, claims approximately 30 officers had sex with her, some while she was underage, and claims other officers asked to act as her pimp, or paid her off in money or protection.
Seven of these officers from the Oakland, Contra Costa, and Livermore police departments now face charges for underage sex, obstruction of justice, engaging in prostitution, and public lewdness. As the accusatory witness for the prosecution, Guap’s testimony is key; without it, there’s no case, as Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said on Friday.
But in a remarkably lucky break for the officers accused, Guap, 19, left California before the sentencing. Her lawyer says the arrangement smacks of a coverup.
Two weeks ago, one of the police departments implicated in her case, the Richmond PD, paid for her to go rehab out of a state fund for drug recovery and even drove her to the airport where she boarded a flight for South Florida.
Only three days into her rehab stint, Guap was arrested for allegedly biting a security guard.
Until Wednesday, Guap was in jail and the case against California cops was on hold.
“It is our understanding the Richmond P.D. and particularly leadership engaged with a local agency and brought her here under false pretences,” Guap’s lawyer Pamela Price said in a Friday afternoon press conference, after Guap was released from jail.
The case began last September, after Oakland police officer Brendan O’Brien was found dead of an apparent suicide, accompanied by a note accusing multiple officers of having sex with an underage girl, and accusing Guap of blackmailing him. In May it was revealed that four Oakland officers had been placed on administrative leave for alleged sexual misconduct. The following month, Guap stepped forward in local media, alleging years of sexual exploitation at the hands of over two dozen Bay Area officers.
Price says Guap was the victim of child sex trafficking since she was 12. She was still being exploited at 17, when she allegedly met Officer O’Brien while running from a pimp. Instead of arresting her, O’Brien allegedly struck up a flirtation with the underage girl. After O’Brien, officers allegedly began reaching out to Guap on social media. Some paid her for sex in money, food, or tip-offs of upcoming busts against sex workers, Guap said.
Other officers colluded to act as Guap’s pimp, Price said, telling reporters that “you cannot have this many officers engaged in this conduct across county lines without internal communication.”
On Friday, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office announced charges—including multiple felony accounts for underage sex—against seven of these officers. But until Guap returns home to the Bay Area, the case can’t proceed.
The Richmond Police Department—which houses five officers accused of having sexual relations with Guap when she was an adult, and who are not among the officers facing criminal charges—had tried to send Guap to rehab in July. It offered to pay for a $40,000 stay at the Florida center on the state’s dime.
Guap declined the offer, as she told KRON4 television station.
“You going to Miami?” reporter Haaziq Madyun texted her in July.
“I rejected it,” Guap answered.
“You feel like RPD was just trying to get you out of town?” Madyun asked.
“Yeahlol,” she replied.
Price said Guap did not require rehab.
“She is not a drug addict,” she said Wednesday. “She is a child victim of child sex trauma and sex trafficking.”
But something changed over the course of the next month. In August, Guap texted Madyun again, telling him she would seek rehab for “‘substance abuse’ and after that one for sex addiction.” She added that the Florida clinic would help distance her from the unfolding case. “I think it [will] help me, getting away from the mess… feel me[?]”
Richmond police allegedly described rehab as a getaway. “They said it was a paid vacation, to consider it a paid vacation,” Guap told ABC7’s Dan Noyes before boarding a flight to Florida. A Richmond police officer drove her to the airport on Aug. 26. Three days later she was in a Florida jail.
Price called it a “carefully orchestrated transition from victim to felon.”
The Richmond Police Department used funds from the state’s Victim Compensation Program to send Guap on her cross-country flight to a detox clinic on the South Florida coast, the department revealed in an internal investigation. Initially the department was silent on Guap’s trip, before owning up to their involvement last week.
“We were purposeful in trying to protect the human dignity of the teenage witness since we opened the case,” Police Chief Allwyn Brown said in a Thursday misconduct investigation. He denied that police had attempted to “remove” Guap, instead pinning the department’s media woes on “her lack of reticence to be so publicly braggadocious about her own behavior and health issues.”
The Richmond Police Department did not return multiple requests for comment on why it sent Guap to a Florida detox clinic instead of similar centers in the Bay Area. The Florida clinic even advertises its partnerships with other rehab facilities nationwide.
“She has no family there or any ties to Florida, or any reason to be there,” Price wrote on her website, “other than someone in Bay Area law enforcement thought it would be a good idea for her to go there.”
Once in rehab, Guap’s situation quickly deteriorated.
An arrest affidavit from the Florida’s Martin County Sheriff’s Office describes Guap having a violent episode. Shortly into her stay at the clinic, Guap allegedly ran out into the road; three days earlier, on her way to the center, she had told a reporter that she might jump from the clinic’s van and into the highway. After a clinic staffer convinced Guap to come back inside, Guap allegedly became confrontational, lunging at staffers and attempting to pull over a safe. When a security guard attempted to restrain her, she allegedly bit him on the arm, leaving a mark.
She was slapped with a felony battery charge. The charge is usually handed to people who cause permanent bodily harm, attack someone with a deadly weapon, or knowingly attack a pregnant person. If convicted, she faces 15 years in prison. Her bond was set at $300,000.
Of the eight people booked in Martin County on aggravated battery charges, Guap has the highest bond, matched only by a person charged “aggravated assault on a pregnant woman.” Guap’s aggravated battery bond is $50,000 higher than that of a 48-year-old accused of aggravated battery on an officer with a vehicle.
Martin County police said Guap’s record in California played no role in her charges.
“We were not aware of [Guap’s] past history. It was only brought to our attention after her arrest when the California media began to contact us,” Christine Weiss, a public information officer for the Martin County Sheriff, told The Daily Beast. She added that an aggravated battery charge for a bite wound is not beyond the pale. “I believe it’s happened in the past. There was an altercation prior to when she bit someone. It’s not uncommon to have that verdict for biting.”
On Monday, assistant state attorney David Lustgarten downgraded Guap’s charges to misdemeanor battery. He hadn’t seen enough evidence to prove she committed a felony, he told SFGate. He’s offering Guap a plea deal, one that might let her return to California to testify.
But while Guap returns, the officers accused in the Bay Area case will likely not see the inside of a courtroom. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has announced charges against seven officers, but says they won’t officially file until Guap comes home.
“The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office did not make arrangements for or participate in sending her to Florida,” O’Malley’s office said in a Friday statement. “To the contrary, we protested her removal from California where she could receive the services she wanted and requested. An agency outside of Alameda County made arrangements to send her out of state, against our wishes and advise.”
Now headed home, Guap hopes to return to school and eventually become a veterinarian. Price, meanwhile, plans to press criminal and civil charges against the officers in the hopes of proving a cover-up.
“I hope I get to make that argument in closing arguments in front of a jury,” Price told reporters.