By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
About a week later, LAPD detective Thayer Lake took a sexual-battery complaint from Ridgeway that described a vastly different scenario. According to the LAPD report, Beltran entered the lobby with a white 20-something prostitute named “Beth” after midnight and went to a room with her. A couple of hours later he reappeared in the lobby and approached Ridgeway, who was standing near the desk clerk.
The report states that Beltran was verbally abusive, drunkenly flashed his badge, and reached under Ridgeway’s skirt and assaulted her. “This fucker just grabbed my ass,” Ridgeway said, according to the report — a comment disputed by Beltran’s defense attorney.
Beltran told the Weekly he was never with a prostitute that night, but that he can’t recall specifics because he was so drunk. “It was an isolated incident,” he said of the evening. His lawyer claims he suffered a “spot blackout” and does not recall being at the hotel or using racist language.
The LAPD report states that Ridgeway accompanied Beltran to an ATM because he was so unstable. Returning to the hotel, Beltran rented a room, and Ridgeway followed him up the stairs to the second floor, according to the report, where Beltran became aggressive, allegedly grabbing her arm and her skirt. When she yelled, the report states, bystanders came to her aid and “kicked [Beltran’s] ass,” causing him to drop his man purse, scattering his wallet and city badge. Angry and panicked, the report continues, Ridgeway gathered up Beltran’s belongings and hid out in a friend’s room.
When Beltran filed his robbery report with Bell Gardens police, and even when he returned to the scene days later to show LAPD detectives where he had allegedly been robbed, he failed to mention the Huntington — despite a tape-recorded phone call, set up after the incident by the LAPD in an effort to catch him in a lie, in which he told Ridgeway, “If I offended you in any way, that is not who I am.”
While Beltran omitted the Huntington Hotel during his police interviews, security guard Antonio Hines said he clearly remembered Beltran’s visit. Hines testified that he found the drunken councilman passed out in the hallway on the second floor and helped carry him downstairs. Hines followed him out to the parking lot of the 740 Club, about a block away.
There, Beltran encountered a couple of friends, 740 Club owner Ralph Verdugo and La Puente City Councilman John Solis, the report states. Verdugo and Solis brought Beltran back to the Huntington and offered money to residents for information about where Ridgeway lived, and about where to find Beltran’s possessions, according to the LAPD report.
Hines told jurors that Beltran’s friends pretended to be police even as they offered $500 to anyone who could produce the councilman’s badge. One Beltran associate, according to Hines, delivered the message explicitly. “Unless you cooperate with me, I can have 150 cops come up here .?.?. in a matter of minutes, secure the whole apartment and take all you guys down,” Hines recalled one saying.
Despite being offered immunity from potential prosecution for impersonating a police officer, Verdugo and Solis informed prosecutors they intended to invoke their Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify. Both men were dropped from the district attorney’s witness list.
On the trial’s fourth day, jurors were treated to a July 13 audio tape of Beltran being quizzed via telephone by Lake, the LAPD detective. On tape, Beltran again declined to mention the hooker hotel, repeating his story about being robbed on the street.
When Beltran spoke to Bell Gardens police two weeks earlier, he had been unable to describe any of the men in the knife-point robbery scenario. But in his LAPD interview, Beltran suddenly had clear descriptions of the dark-skinned men whom he portrayed as his attackers. One had a “light beard” and was three inches taller than Beltran; another was in his late 20s.
Asked why he did not initially tell the LAPD about the robbery, Beltran offered an answer that made sense no matter what a jury decides. “I was very embarrassed,” said Beltran, pointing out that he shouldn’t have been out so late. “In many ways,” he told the LAPD detective, “I was responsible for what happened to me.”
While the jury learned quite a bit about Beltran’s wild side, some Bell Gardens officials have heard enough. Mayor Jennifer Rodriguez told the Weekly, “Our concern is not to cover up for Councilman Beltran. He appears to have been untruthful with us. It’s become the focus of negative attention. Even if he is found innocent, he has caused damage to our community.”
Matthew Fleischer contributed to this story.
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