Bakersfield police have submitted documents to the Kings County District Attorney's Office requesting a felony domestic abuse charge be filed against BPD Assistant Chief Evan Demestihas, who was arrested last week.

The department has recommended Demestihas be charged with one count of corporal injury on a spouse, according to Sgt. Nathan McCauley. The charge can be a misdemeanor or felony based on evidence but the BPD has recommended felony-level prosecution.

Demestihas was arrested Sept. 4 after a woman was found with visible injuries in the parking lot of the VIP Lounge just after midnight. Demestihas, who is one of two assistant chiefs for the BPD, surrendered himself to authorities at the Taft city jail later that day after being ordered to do so by the BPD. He bonded out of jail before the end of the day.

The recommendation for charges was sent to the Kings County district attorney because the Kern County District Attorney's Office had advised it has a conflict of interest, McCauley said. 

"In general, there's relationships that are formed with the higher-ups at the BPD. (Demestihas) has been there a long time and we don't even want it to appear there's a conflict of interest," said Joseph Kinzel, a deputy district attorney, in explaining the local DA's position.

That's in contrast to Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin's decision to allow the department to investigate one of its own.

"There is no conflict of interest whatsoever," Martin previously said.

Demestihas began his career with the BPD in 2001. He was promoted to assistant police chief in January 2017 after working as a lieutenant in charge of internal affairs.

Who should investigate?

When officers have been accused of crimes in the past, McCauley said, the department has done both — investigated its own or asked other agencies to do so — depending on the situation.

Every effort is made to ensure there's no personal conflict of interest before any investigator is assigned to look into an incident involving another officer or staff member, he said. And that was true for the Demestihas investigation.

"Chief Martin has stated numerous times how important it is for our department to maintain accountability for our actions," McCauley said. "This investigation is no exception and will be handled in a thorough, complete and professional manner."

The most recent example of an investigation by an outside agency, McCauley said, was the investigation into former detectives Patrick Mara and Damacio Diaz. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the IRS participated in that investigation which uncovered the two men used their positions as police officers to steal meth from drug dealers and sell it through a third party for personal gain. 

McCauley said the department also requested that the FBI review the 2017 case in which BPD officers shot and killed Francisco Serna, a 73-year-old man with dementia who was holding a crucifix, which officers mistook for a gun. 

There is no rule requiring the department to outsource investigations of its own officers or staff, McCauley said. 

When the department has investigated its own officers or staff in the past, he said, many of those cases resulted in arrests, prosecutions and convictions.

In the hands of the chief

The BPD's approach appears to be in line with other police departments.

Visalia Police Department spokesman Gary Williams said their police chief evaluates each case and determines whether or not it would be appropriate for the department to investigate. If the police chief isn't comfortable investigating it, the district attorney's office or another agency would be contacted to handle the case, Williams said.

Likewise, in Santa Barbara, the police department does not have a specific policy in place to deal with arrests of its own employees, said Santa Barbara Police Department spokesman Anthony Wagner. He said many factors go into whether or not an outside agency will investigate a case, but it's ultimately decided by the police chief.

However, several legal experts who were asked about the BPD's situation with Demestihas felt there was a high potential for competing loyalties to be at play in the investigation. 

"If you’re talking about an investigation of a fairly high-ranking official in a police department, it is better if you have the investigation done by people who are outside of the department," said Los Angeles-based attorney Richard Drooyan, a former U.S. attorney in the Los Angeles office who now works in private practice.

Drooyan said in general, it is better to have an independent investigation conducted to "avoid any possible criticism regarding the quality or the credibility of the investigation." 

"If there are relationships, people could question the conclusions or credibility of the investigation based upon those relationships," Drooyan said. 

Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, agreed there's a high likelihood of a conflict of interest in the BPD's case. But what really matters, she said, is public sentiment and whether it has "full faith" in the department to investigate the matter in an unbiased manner.

Maureen Strode can be reached at 661-395-7491 or mstrode@bakersfield.com. Stacey Shepard can be reached at 661-395-7368 or sshepard@bakersfield.com.

(18) comments

scottybob

Did they take all his firearms, as is the case with all other wife beaters?

REMUDA

Lots of 'talk' . . . mostly on protocol, other case references and very little on case detail. But . . . if fills the page >>> TBD.

WorriedAboutSafety



Holy Molly felony spousal abuse ? man must have some mental or substance abuse issues ???

Veritas

Pedophile, I have sat back and watched your comments for quite a while now. It is obvious to all that you just like to stir up people with no real position. If you don’t know what that means then be please comment back. It is also obvious that you are not invested in our community. Therefore, you are a Troll and will be banned soon! Don’t believe me, watch1

Gene Pool Chlorinator

I've called him out numerous times, and 99% of the time he won't respond. When he does, it's with the intellect of a 12 year old. I think he only gets on the computer when mommy isn't looking...

GetReal2

Hope the felony referral was not intended as a morale boost, if the Asst. Chief was not well liked in the proverbial locker room. Or maybe the crime was Really Serious for a guy with presumably an impeccable winner, or hang tough because the DA will demonstrate professional discretion; or maybe felony charges filed with a pre-destined outcome of a Misd. plea bargain? Any way cut it, tabloid type coverage over sad situation involving public service figure. Maybe good for next Journalist column: Gaspar: Guilty or Scapecoat; or Cop Tales: Lessons my Newspaper Taught me.

Hard nose

Sounds like Abassi is using his alias the Jackyl again Give it up man. You are a threat to the public. You harass your employees and women. Ive witnessed it first hand while visiting your shop on niles. You pulled a gun on a child then showed up to the police department with an arsenal.who does that? A crazy person! Being a political person as you claim, surely you would want to allow due process for this officer. Everything is a conspiracy with you. Get a real job man.

Sandy Bender

I think that an investigation needs to be done by an outside agency. I hope that the victim gets justice in this case. I hope that the victim is getting the help and support she needs.

The Jackal

Shameful and Despicable Behavior. The assistant chief of police was recently going after political activist David Abbasi and his gun rights. He was allegedly bribed to go after Mr Abbasi. Clearly, the former assistant chief of police was the real threat. Witnesses say he tried to rape his wife after beating her in the parking lot.

PedoHater

He did more than that. Californian won’t let us post facts. Sad day in America

Fightingsideofme

Those are the laws, you will not find out everything, even when it is over.

Fightingsideofme

Are you sure it was his wife ? if it was, he needs to go and get PTSD Treatment and cut out the booze, they don't go together very well, in NYC people on the job are shooting themselves in the head, even if you don't like the guy we need to show compassion in this situation for all involved.

Mrknowitall

Abassi is a verified maniac. County Supervisors are going to insure he not be licensed in Kern as cannabis dispensary owner by inserting clause in County Cannabis initiative that bans any maniac that has gun-related convictions. That would effectively exclude The Maniac as he’s going to have at least a misdemeanor gun-related crime for multiple incidents. The Cannabis industry cannot shake this guy from their ranks—though they want him gone, like yesterday. He has tainted the effort.

As for the Case vs the cop. Better that outside agency investigate EVERY single time cop arrested. Our chief and a few other cities have chiefs that refuse and make the call. Power hungry. Plain n simple. Not complicated. Just step aside. Mr. Knowitall has spoken as he knows it all.

Veritas

Now I am convinced you are mentally ill. I will find what retirement home you are in and get you the help you need. Peace

PedoHater

Californian allows posters to be slanders and never deletes their posts...then you post facts about the police and they delete it....Crooks just like the cops

Comment deleted.
Sandy Bender

The assistant chief's behavior is deplorable!

ConcernedCatholic

What about Craig Harrison???

Gene Pool Chlorinator

What about him?

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