The LAPD sergeant who detained Django Unchained actress Daniele Watts and her boyfriend for lewd behavior last year has been accused of violating city ethics rules, and now faces a steep fine for leaking audio of the incident to the media.
The City Ethics Commission is expected to charge Sgt. Jim Parker with two separate ethics violations for leaking information to the entertainment website TMZ without department permission, and for “creating a private advantage” for himself by doing so, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Parker had detained the actress and her boyfriend, Brian James Lucas, in September of last year after workers in a Los Angeles industrial park called police to report that the couple appeared to be having sex in a parked car in a nearby parking lot.
Watts accused Parker of racism because she is African-American, while her boyfriend is white. In turn, Parker leaked audiotape of the encounter to TMZ in an effort to clear himself of the racism accusation.
In October, Parker told the Wrap that he faced insubordination charges from his department for leaking the tape to the media and had been placed in a “penalty box.” A 26-year veteran of the force, Parker later retired rather than face an administrative hearing about the incident.
Now, however, Parker faces a $10,000 fine if city officials determine he violated ethics rules by leaking the tape. Parker’s attorney, Larry Hanna, told the Times he had “never, ever seen” an ethics violation investigation targeting an LAPD officer in his twenty-year experience representing law enforcement. He added that other police officers have in the past made recordings available to the public without facing ethics violation charges.
“For some reason, they’re being very vindictive against this officer,” Hanna told the paper.
The Times‘ own research backs up Hanna’s claim: according to the paper, since 1993, the City Ethics Commission has never charged anyone with the disclosure of confidential information. The commission has similarly only investigated the “private advantage” charge twice in the same time frame.
Significantly, the leaked audio appeared to contradict the racism allegations made by Watts against Parker. Activist groups who had rallied to Watts’ defense after the initial encounter quickly retracted their support after the tape was made public and demanded the actress apologize to the officer.
Watts and Lucas were ultimately charged with committing lewd acts, but pleaded no contest and the charges were downgraded to disturbing the peace.
As part of the plea deal, the pair were ordered to write apology letters to both Sgt. Parker and the business park workers who originally called the police, but a judge later found that the apology letters were inadequate and insincere. As a result, Watts and Lucas were ordered to perform 15 days of community labor and were sentenced to two years of probation.
Parker’s attorney has vowed vigorously to fight the ethics violation charges, even though the commission has offered to settle the case.