LA County deputy pleads not guilty to child sex assaults

August 11, 2022 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to sexually assaulting four girls between the ages of 7 and 13, prosecutors said.

Sean Essex, 51, was ordered held without bail.

The county district attorney’s office said he was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on 47 counts including committing lewd acts on a child under the age of 14, oral copulation of a child, continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 and possessing material depicting a child sex act.

The office didn’t provide details of the alleged assaults.

Essex could face multiple life sentences if convicted of all charges.

“Sexually assaulting a child not only robs them of their innocence but also leaves lasting mental trauma,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “This is one of the most egregious crimes my office encounters and it is made worse when the crime is committed by someone who has been entrusted to protect them and our community from harm.”

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One alleged victim reported abuse in 2006 but the district attorney’s office declined to file charges at that time, prosecutors said.

Essex was assigned to the Sheriff’s Department training bureau. He was fired after a 2018 investigation but the county’s Civil Service Commission ordered him reinstated, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Essex has now been relieved of duty and the department “is in the process of removing his pay,” a department statement said.

“Department members who engage in misconduct, especially criminal misconduct that preys on a vulnerable population, will not be tolerated and will be investigated and fully prosecuted,” the department said. “Society expects peace officers to hold themselves to the highest moral and ethical standards, as does the Sheriff.”