A state appeals court panel today upheld the conviction of a former Los Angeles police officer for sexually assaulting a woman and soliciting sex from another woman — both while he was on duty.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected an appeal filed on behalf of Russell Mecano, who was convicted in March 2011 of one felony count each of sexual battery by restraint, sexual penetration by force or duress and sexual penetration under threat along with one misdemeanor count of solicitation of prostitution.
Mecano was sentenced in May 2011 to 8 1/2 years in prison, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry saying that the former officer had disgraced himself and his badge by committing crimes that “are deserving of harsh punishment.”
The felony charges involved a then-18-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted near the Palisades Branch Library on May 28, 2008, and then told to meet him later at a Holiday Inn.
The woman reported later to police what had happened.
The misdemeanor charge stemmed from Mecano’s encounter with a 19-year-old female transient after her October 2007 arrest.
Mecano gave the woman $200 in cash and told her to meet him at a nearby Holiday Inn, but she took a taxi to the beach instead and later reported to police what had occurred.
Mecano was indicted in October 2008 by a Los Angeles County grand jury.
In a 27-page ruling, the appellate court panel rejected Mecano’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for solicitation of prostitution because he never explicitly requested sex in exchange for the money.
The appellate court panel found that “the jury could reasonably conclude that Mecano specifically intended to solicit sex” from the young woman, noting that he used his position to get her released on her own recognizance and gave her an amount “greatly in excess of the cab fare” after telling her to meet him at a Holiday Inn.
The justices also rejected the defense’s claim that the trial court erred in admitting extensive recorded statements from that woman, along with an argument that Mecano’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was violated by the admission of DNA evidence on which the technicians who performed the testing did not testify but the supervisor who analyzed the results did go before the jury.