Taylor & Ring Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Victim of Riverside County Sexual Assault, Hush Money Scandal

On September 20, Riverside County sheriff’s deputy Christian Phillip Heidecker was charged with 18 felony counts, stemming from acts of sexual abuse and extortion against females held in custody. On September 26, it was revealed that Riverside County tried to cover up the scandal by paying at least two of the victims hush money.

Dave Ring and Neil Gehlawat, partners with Taylor & Ring, are representing a third victim. Gehlawat told the Desert Sun, “The county confronted a victim of sexual abuse with a bag of money. These sheriff’s department employees and lawyers knew exactly what they were doing. They knew the deputy was bad news. And instead of helping, they revictimize these women by offering them hush money.”

Taylor & Ring will be filing a lawsuit this week on our client’s behalf.

Riverside County’s attempt to cover up his wrongdoing through bribes

Attorneys for the other victims told the Desert Sun that “both a staff member of the sheriff’s department and a lawyer who said she represented the County of Riverside contacted at least two of the victims in a hush money attempt…. ‘They were told they needed to have their ankle bracelets inspected. But they were actually called to be questioned about Heidecker and forced to sign the agreement.’”

The “agreement” was simple: in exchange for their silence about the sexual assault and indignities they endured, the victims were offered $1000. (Our client was offered $2000.) They were not allowed to consult a lawyer. They were not given copies of the agreement, even after they asked for them.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, our client said she felt “pressured” to sign the agreement, and that officials increased their offer to $2,000 when she said she needed some time to think about it.

“Deputy Heidecker’s misconduct was despicable. He will suffer the consequences of his criminal case,” Dave Ring told the Los Angeles Times. “However, for law enforcement and county officials to then mislead and dupe these victims into signing away their legal rights in exchange for some insignificant amount of money is beyond outrageous. These officials will need to suffer the consequences also.”

Riverside County has denied all wrongdoing. In a statement released to the press, the County claimed these were “pre-litigation settlement” offers and that “as this specific case involves an ongoing criminal investigation, these women may testify in a criminal trial.”

We do not accept this explanation. As Neil Gehlawat told the Desert Sun, “The crimes were bad enough, but the cover up is arguably worse. Whether they got the money or not, this reeks of fraud. They wanted to bury these crimes. These are marginalized women they thought they could pay off. Their game plan is falling apart.”

We have requested copies of the agreement so we cannot speak to the language contained within it, but we can say this: nothing about this alleged offer appears above board. If nothing else, it speaks to how little value Riverside County places on the lives of sexual assault survivors.

These women were being held in custody, if not in jail. They were told the people in the room with them were county officials – men and women with authority and power of them and their futures. They were denied their right to counsel of their own choosing. And then they were bribed with checks for $1000 or $2000 for their “emotional distress” over being repeated assaulted by a man in a position of power.

About the charges against Heidecker

Heidecker is facing felony charges for “engaging in a sexual act without consent as a detention officer, forced sexual penetration, extortion, [and] dissuading a witness and bribery.” From the Desert Sun:

He is accused of using his position as a deputy to force sexual acts and extort sexually explicit photos and videos from four women, according to the complaint filed in court. The exchange of the photos and videos are being charged as bribes. Prosecutors also say that for months, he had forced sexual acts on the same four women. The charging documents allege the sex acts, extortion and attempts to dissuade witnesses occurred between June 24 and Sept. 15, 2023, the day he turned himself in.

Taylor & Ring fights for victims of sexual assault across California

It is no secret that prisons and jails are hotbeds of sexual assault. People who are incarcerated, on home detention, or on parole or probation are vulnerable to the power of authority. Many live with the fear of having their sentences extended or going back to prison if they do not act in a certain way, or if they do not follow the orders of the guards or officers. As such, they lack agency. They are denied a voice.

At Taylor & Ring, we give your voice back. If you were abused by a prison guard, a case manager, or anyone else in the criminal justice system, we want to help. If you were a victim of Heidecker’s and were approached to sign an agreement in exchange for compensation, we are here. We have earned our reputation as fierce defenders of the truth and of the civil justice system. We have taken on sexual predators in every industry and organization. We fight back against police misconduct and brutality. We represent people who lives have been irreparably changed, and we help them take their power back.

You are not alone. Call or contact Taylor & Ring in Los Angeles today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney. We offer a safe environment in which to tell your story, as well as phone and video consultations if that’s better for you.