Female inmates file suit related to acts by ‘sexual predator’ ex-RivCo deputy | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Female inmates sexually exploited by an ex-Riverside County sheriff’s deputy responsible for supervising them on a home detention program are federally suing the county, sheriff’s administrators and others for alleged civil rights violations, it was announced today.   

“Deputy (Christian) Heidecker sexually preyed upon the plaintiff(s) and took advantage of (their) vulnerabilities,” according to a civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside. “Heidecker’s conduct clearly shocks the conscience.”  

Heidecker, 32, of Menifee pleaded guilty in February to four counts each of extortion, a public official seeking bribes and witness intimidation, as well as one count of a detention officer perpetrating a sexual assault.  

Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers accepted the plea over the objections of prosecutors, who opposed the stipulated term of five years in state prison for being too low, but Rogers imposed it anyway.

The criminal complaint identified only four victims, all by their initials — “A.A.,” “A.R.,” “K.P.” and “O.C.” But the plaintiffs’ attorneys added three additional women, whose identities also were not disclosed, in the federal civil action. It seeks unspecified damage awards, along with other sanctions, for alleged violations of protections guaranteed under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments

“Criminal behavior is not only unacceptable, it is referred to law enforcement,” according to a county Executive Office statement. “In this situation, the county investigated, arrested, prosecuted and reached a
conviction for Heidecker. Upon receipt of these lawsuits, the county will review them thoroughly to determine next steps.”   

Heidecker made a confession last Sept. 1, after one of his victims furnished information to his superiors, prompting an internal investigation.   

The principal complaint contains a narrative of the disgraced ex-lawman’s sordid history tied to one victim — K.P.   

“K.P. (and) the other victims were coerced … fearful that they had to abide by the desires of Heidecker to remain out of jail,” according to the civil filing. For the defendant, this susceptibility made these women great candidates, vulnerable due to their fear and status.”

Heidecker, who became a deputy in April 2018, was a case manager in the Coordinated Custody Management Unit, supervising inmates from the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning who had qualified for the Riverside Alternative Sentencing Program, or RASP.

RASP permits qualifying in-custody inmates — either serving a jail sentence or still in the adjudication process, awaiting trial but unable to post bail — to remain at home with GPS ankle monitors to track their
movements, remaining confined during certain hours of the day and free to go out at other times, such as for work, school or essential errands.   

Case managers decide when to permit free time or assign confinement, as well as dictating other terms by which the RASP detainees must abide. The program requires a contract with Sentinel Offender Services LLC, which provides the ankle monitors and mobile phones that contain tracking data observed by case managers, according to the lawsuit.   

The plaintiffs allege Sentinel’s previous coordinator for the Smith Correctional Facility program, Karisma Vaca, facilitated Heidecker’s illicit acts because she was in “romantic and sexual relations” with him.

“The grooming of K.P. and others could have stopped … had there been no complacency by employees at Sentinel, including Vaca,” according to the suit.

Sentinel is a named defendant in the civil action.   

The plaintiffs allege Heidecker engaged in a re-occurring pattern of sexual abuse, sometimes beginning with the female candidates he hand-picked to participate in RASP, even though any incarcerated party can apply for admission.

According to the suit, Heidecker would begin by communicating with the victims via his Sentinel cell, soliciting photographs to “update pictures on file.”  

“The conversation would then take a disturbing turn when the defendant would praise the photos he received,” according to the narrative. “Heidecker insisted on photos of feet without socks … to fully depict the electronic monitor but (actually) part of his sexual gratification in order to satisfy his foot fetish.”

The more compliance he received from his charges, the more emboldened he became, the plaintiffs said, pressuring the women to communicate with him via his personal cell and demanding that they delete all private conversations afterward, or face the possibility of losing privileges under RASP.

“Once the defendant was able to establish dominance, his requests became more sexual in nature,” the complaint said.  

He would demand “RASP participants engage in sexual acts” and that they video “themselves engaging in sexual acts” and send the videos to him, the plaintiffs wrote.   

If he detected a lack of compliance, Heidecker would routinely threaten the women with “more restrictive curfew hours,” “lockdown” and a “return to (jail) custody,” according to the complaint.

K.P. came under his control in August 2023 and received “threatening messages about his power to put her back in jail” for not fulfilling his personal requests, the attorneys said. The woman feared losing custody of her 5-year-old son and was initially obedient. However, the abuse ended when Heidecker’s behavior was outed weeks later, and he gave a full confession.   

The plaintiffs allege there was an attempt by sheriff’s Professional Standards Bureau Correctional Sgt. Jessica Yelenich and the county’s private attorney, Nicole Roggeven, to pay K.P. and the other victims “hush money” in September.

“Yelenich and Roggeveen created a list of Heidecker’s victims, and one by one, they offered them money in exchange to waiving their right to sue the county,” the complaint states.

A $5,000 check was written to K.P. However, unnamed higher-ups in county government rejected the plan, according to the suit.   

“It is not uncommon to seek settlement prior to litigation to avoid the time and expense for both sides with lawsuits,” the county stated.   

The plaintiffs allege Heidecker actively abused his authority for “years.” A video, titled “Big Dick Deputies,” which was produced and circulated among sheriff’s personnel, depicted Heidecker and other deputies on the job. It pointed to disciplinary shortcomings in the department that may have set the stage for the ex-lawman’s offenses, according to the complaint.

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