Riverside County officials are accused of bribing sexual assault victims in exchange for their silence.
According to court documents filed in Riverside County on Monday by attorneys representing two women, the victims were allegedly subjected to sexual abuse, harassment, and intimidation by Christian Phillip Heidecker between March and April of 2023, during which Heidecker was a correctional deputy with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
The court filings also stated that an attorney for the county and a correctional sergeant for the department offered to pay $1,000 each to the two women in an attempt to coverup the alleged sexual abuse by Heidecker.
However, a county spokesperson said in a statement to News Channel 3 that "it is not uncommon to seek settlement prior to litigation to avoid the time and expense for both sides associated with lawsuits." The spokesperson also said the county just received the claim today and is determining next steps. They added that the victims could still testify in a criminal trial.
Civil attorneys Denisse Gastelum and Christian Contreras discussed their court filings during a press conference in Riverside today, joined by their two clients. They called the offer by the county a "cover-up" meant to buy the victims' silence.
The women's attorneys claimed that a county attorney and a correctional sergeant worked together to get victims to accept the money in an effort to avoid potential civil lawsuits.
Civil Attorney Denisse Gastelum said the effort by county officials happened just before former deputy Christian Heidecker was arrested and charged with sex crimes.
“The day before September 15 when Deputy Heidecker turned himself in for those 18 counts of extortion for sex, rape, and bribery, you had two County of Riverside officials knocking on these victims’ doors," said Gastelum.
This comes less than two weeks after Heidecker was arrested and charged with 18 counts. Three of the counts were for being a detention officer engaging in sex while on duty and witness intimidation, as well as four counts each of attempted penetration with a foreign object, extortion and a public official seeking bribes.
Heidecker is due back in court on the criminal charges next week.