ANAHEIM (CNS) - An Anaheim police officer pleaded not guilty today to felony charges of filing a false report about a traffic stop and then lying under oath about the driver not consenting to a search that led to drug charges.
Dillon Adam Avila, 28, could face up to four years and eight months in prison if convicted of one count each of filing a false police report and perjury.
His next court date is a Sept. 24 pretrial hearing at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Avila's attorney, Michael D. Schwartz, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Avila, who is on paid administrative leave, joined the Anaheim force as a new recruit in January 2016, Anaheim police Sgt. Shane Carringer said.
The traffic stop occurred in April 2018. The driver told Avila and his partner multiple times that he did not consent to a search of his vehicle, but Avila claimed in a police report filed April 29, 2018, that the suspect did allow officers to search the car, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
The officers found drugs and evidence of drug sales in the car, prosecutors said, and the driver was charged with one felony count each of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell and sale or transport of a controlled substance.
At a Feb. 5, 2019, preliminary hearing, Avila testified that the driver consented to the search, but the officer's body-worn camera contradicted that claim, prosecutors said.
Defense attorney Stephan DeSales, who represented the driver, said his client can be seen on the body-worn video “repeatedly insisting you don't have permission to search the car -- like five or six times.''
DeSales added, “To her credit, (Deputy District Attorney Yvette Patko) saw that immediately after we prepared a motion to suppress the evidence. She deserves a lot of credit for doing the right thing.''
The case was dismissed “and we never had to litigate it,'' DeSales told City News Service.
“What's really shocking about it is ... in relative terms it's not a major case, it's a traffic stop,'' that led to a “small amount'' of drugs, DeSales said. “Why a guy would lie to justify that is beyond me. He threw his career away. It's crazy.
“To tell you the truth, when I looked at the video... I said this is ridiculous. If they testify to (consent of the search) they'll be lying under oath. It stunned me because he seemed like a very nice young police officer. Nothing personal, but you can't do that. It's against the rules. He wouldn't want someone to lie against him if he was a defendant.''
Anaheim police Chief Jorge Cisneros posted a video on social media acknowledging how the arrest can erode public trust in police officers.
“When an incident questioning the integrity of an officer of the law occurs undoubtedly the public trust erodes, damaging the confidence our officers work so hard to build, not only in the Anaheim PD, but in the entire system,'' Cisneros said. “I want to reinforce to the public that neither I nor any paid officer will tolerate behavior that tarnishes the badge we represent.''
Avila “deserves a fair trial,'' Cisneros said, adding, “I also believe this incident should serve as an indication that the system worked.''
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said, “We cannot tolerate dishonest police officers and we must prosecute them and ensure they are fired. The public has every right and expectation that those who wear the badge will lawfully carry out their duties without exception. Those who violate the public's trust and break the very laws they are sworn to uphold will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.''
Photo: Getty Images