A total of 11 Venice High School students, all boys from ages 14 to 17 years old, have been arrested in connection with alleged sex crimes that involve two underage girls. Some of them were taken into custody while on campus. The others were taken into custody off campus. Three other students are still being sought by police and will be arrested once they are located.
According to Officer Sara Faden, they have all been released to the custody of their parents. None of the boys have been named due to the fact that they are all minors.
Investigating the Sex Crime Allegations
Detectives are in the process of investigating a series of alleged sex crimes that began more than a year ago. The penalties for the alleged offenses vary from individual to individual and while some of those taken into custody were cited and released, others were arrested and formally booked into Juvenile Hall before being allowed to return home to their families.
According to law enforcement sources, the charges include sexual assault and lewd acts with a minor. The sensitive nature of the sexual crimes, in addition to the juvenile status of the accused and a legal need to protect the alleged victims, has been reason for why police have offered little specific information about the case.
Officials have emphasized that the investigation is still in it infancy. They were made aware of it after a parent of a student at the high school reported allegations.
“We didn’t want to leave the suspects out there to potentially victimize other girls at the school,” said Cmdr. Andrew Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department. “The last thing we wanted was to have another victim.”
Beginning in 2013, a group of male teenagers worked together to pressure two female classmates into performing numerous sexual acts. While some the incidents were coerced, others were consensual, according to police. Sources have revealed that during some of the sexual acts, several boys were present and had threatened the girls with harm to their reputations if they did not comply. According to the same sources, some of those accused are athletes that play football and basketball at the school.
According to LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith both girls have been interviewed “at length” by sex crimes investigators.
Smith also said detectives are investigating whether or not there is any video or photographic evidence of the alleged assaults. Production and distribution of sexually explicit material that involves juveniles is illegal and would warrant separate charges. “When this is all said and done, we may have some of that as well,” Smith said.
News of Arrests in Community
News of the arrests spread quickly around the community and within the school, via social media, and word of mouth. It’s shocked both students and parents.
When Inez Laval dropped off her daughter at school, she expressed she was still in shock over the allegations, and had asked her 10th-grade daughter to speak up if she saw or heard anything inappropriate happening at school.
“It is tragic what happened to this little girl,” she said. “That it went on for so long makes it so much worse.”
Cristina Garrido, another parent of a student at Venice, said the news of the allegations made her uneasy. One of her children graduated from the school and she has a son that’s currently in the math and science magnet program. Though she loves the school’s academics, she questions how officials have handled the situation.
“How many incidents were there? Where was the supervision?” she said as she dropped off her son at school.
According to ninth-grader Benjamin Valle, the allegations were all students were talking about on social media over the weekend.
Benjamin, who knows some of the students arrested, said that the hot-button debate is whether or not the alleged sexual acts were consensual or not.
According to senior Hector Bolanos Jr., the rush of police officers and reporters to the Venice High campus has been unsettling for many students.
“The school has better things to be known for,” he said.
Parents Notified and Crisis Counselors Available on Campus
According to L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon Cortines students’ parents had been notified after the allegations and arrests were made. Crisis counselors have also been made available on campus to assist any students.
“This is a painful moment for Venice High School and this district,” he said in a statement. “I want you to know that no sexual misconduct of any kind by students or staff will ever be tolerated in L.A. Unified.”
“We’re pouring all our resources over there … to make sure every child over there feels safe,” said school board member Steve Zimmer. He represents the Westside school. “Our crisis team and our psychiatric social workers are on site ready to provide services to every student who is affected by this, indirectly and directly.”
Venice High School History
The community surrounding Venice High School has had a long history of diversity, which includes a mix of rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in addition to areas that have been associated with gang violence. In 2006, a 17-year-old student was fatally shot on campus for trying to protect his younger brother from gang members.
More than 2,000 students attend the school. Two-thirds are of Latino descent. It’s One of its most prestigious foreign-language magnet program draws students from across the city.
Student staff members on the school newspaper, the Oarsman, have created a campaign called “Venice High School is great because…”
To describe their efforts, they wrote: “In the past few days, Venice High has been receiving a lot of negative attention. However, Venice High has award-winning programs, highly qualified teachers, and many motivated and high-achieving students. We encourage people to help promote positivity about Venice High and be aware of all the school’s achievements.”
In 2013, then-Supt. John Deasy singled out the high school for the progress it had made in improving test scores. However, its overall academic achievement remains relatively low.
Sex Crime Statistics
Facing Sexual Assault Charges
While laws vary from state to state, sexual assault or sex crimes generally refer to any crime in which an offender subjects a victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive. The term “sex crime” covers all ranges of crime, including: groping, sexual assault and or battery, to attempted rape. All states prohibit sexual assault.
It’s important to realize that exact definitions of the crimes that fall into the category of “sexual assault” vary from state to state. While the laws share some basic elements, the structures, wording and scope of sexual assault offenses can vary considerably. If you have been accused of committing a sex crime it is important that you reach out to a local sex crime defense attorney that is familiar with the laws of the state you have been accused in.
Sexual Assault Charges
In general, sexual assault is defined as involuntary sexual contact that occurs due to an offenders use of force, coercion, or the victim’s incapacitation. A victim is considered by the law to be incapacitated if they do not have the mental ability to understand the nature of the sexual acts, or if they are physically incapable of indicating that they are unwilling to participate in the sexual conduct. Examples of these types of charges are when it’s been found that the use of alcohol or date rape drugs has occurred. Both of these substances can make it impossible for a victim to legally consent to sexual conduct.
The term “sexual assault” is often the umbrella term that covers other crimes, such as rape and unwanted sexual contact. Some state laws distinguish between crimes involving penetration ( ruling it an aggravated or first-degree sexual assault) and crimes involving coerced or involuntary touching (a lower-level sexual assault).
Working with a Sex Crime Defense Attorney
Being accused of a sex crime is not something that should be taken lightly. The consequences of a conviction can be expenses and have lasting effects on employment and restrictions on living arrangements. Penalties for sex crimes, depending on the circumstances around the accusations and the case can include informal probation, fines, treatment programs, sex registration for life, county jail and state prison among others. Having to register as a sex offender will follow you for the rest of your life; it generally prevents an individual from finding work or housing in addition to other hardships. If you are facing charges for a sex crime, you need the legal aid of a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from The Law Office of Peter Berlin.