Bexar County, Sarah Flood-Baumann
Former SAPD officers Alejandro Chapa and Emmanuel Galindo.
The gallery of State District Judge Steven C. Hilbig's Bexar County courtroom was standing-room only Friday morning as a jury heard the closing arguments in a sexual assault case involving two former San Antonio Police Department officers.
"This is illegal, not immoral," prosecutor Ryan Wright told the jury. "These officers were using their badge to lure in vulnerable women. That's criminal. That's why we're here."
Ex-cops Alejandro Chapa and Emmanuel Galindo were charged in 2015 for coercing up to 25 women into trying out for a bogus undercover operation
that required women to perform sex acts for what they promised would be a hefty paycheck (and, for some, legal aid). According to one victim, the two promised to dismiss her DWI charge in exchange for her involvement. Another said she was desperate for the promised payout to cover her mother's kidney transplant. In exchange, the two allegedly promised the women they would just have to go through point-based tryouts for the position. The more points the women got, the bigger their payout would be — and the faster they'd get it.
They'd get the most points for having sex with Chapa and Galindo.
"These officers were exploiting these women," Wright said. "What blows my mind is that the defendants themselves knew that this was criminal. They only got caught because they hurt people."
Prosecutors say police were alerted to the con after one of the women (using the pseudonym Stephanie Flores) called the Live Oak Police Department to report sexual assault. A cop had taken advantage of her after making her drink alcohol to the point of serious intoxication. She was black-out drunk when Galindo decided to have sex with her. When Live Oak police and the Texas Rangers began to piece the case together, it led them to Chapa and Galindo — and to their long cache of text messages clearly laying out the "covert operation" they had sold to dozens of women. Before they could finish their investigation, both Chapa and Galindo resigned from SAPD.
Prosecutors say there's a mountain of evidence and testimony that should make this a cut-and-dry case of coercion, oppression, and sexual assault. But the attorneys representing Chapa and Galindo used their closing arguments to place the blame on the state — and law enforcement officials.
Defense attorney Leigh Cutter, however, argued that what happened does not constitute sexual assault.
"I don't think she really thinks she was sexually assaulted," Cutter said of one victim who, on Wednesday, told jurors in excruciating detail how she was sexually assaulted. "She didn't have to have sex with anyone."
How do we know the sex was consensual? According to Cutter's partner, defense attorney Alan Brown, "This wasn't their first sexual experience. All these girls were well-experienced." He argued the women "didn't even know they were victims until the Texas Rangers told them they were."
Perhaps this is because they weren't aware they were part of what prosecutors call the massive, multi-victim con until the Rangers explained it to them. (Brown reminded the jury that Texas Rangers may seem "heroic," but aren't perfect). All of the women who testified had said they believed they were victims of Chapa and Galindo's scam.
But that's now how Brown sees it. "I don't see a crime here at all," he said. "There's a different between what's wrong and what's a crime."
He indicated that what the women did, "having sex outside of marriage" was wrong, and that the men not being faithful to their wives was wrong. But not criminal.
"I think the big message here is to 'be faithful to your family.'" He reminded the jury that both men had wives and children.
After the closing arguments Friday morning, the jury left the courtroom to deliberate. If convicted, Chapa and Galindo face up to 20 years in jail.