Less than a day after news broke that the secretive general manager of L.A.’s Department of Building and Safety was under investigation for an alleged rape, someone quietly removed his official city portrait from the lobby of his 10th-floor executive suite at the department’s headquarters on Figueroa Street downtown.
The photo of Andrew Adelman, smirking into the camera, may as well have been yanked down years ago, if you ask angry residents who’ve repeatedly charged that Adelman has been essentially absent as a public servant, ignoring piles of complaints, as L.A. has become mired in overdevelopment and unchecked installations of giant illegal billboards.
Now, Adelman faces a whole new kind of trouble, as detectives from the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division Special Assault Section have been building a case stemming from an alleged July 10 attack on a woman who, according to a lurid court document, says she passed out, then woke up midrape next to a nude, aroused Adelman wielding a trio of invasive sex toys. If prosecutors believe there’s enough evidence, Adelman could face a laundry list of felonies, including kidnapping and a variety of rape counts, some carrying a possible life sentence.
Information about sensitive investigations like this, let alone a case naming a top city official as the suspect, is usually closely guarded by investigators and their supervisors at Robbery-Homicide Division.
While Adelman was not arrested or charged with a crime last week and still had not been arrested as of press time this week, the shocking allegations came to light because they were left in an unsealed file in a clerk’s office at the Criminal Courts Building on Temple Street, available for any bored reporter to discover.
That’s exactly what happened.
Several pages from a search warrant in the case were first posted on the news Web site TheEnterpriseReport.com (a site to which I occasionally contribute photos and video), run by freelance network-news producer Eric Longabardi, who chose to redact the names on his Web site until police were ready to go public.
Adelman was identified in broadcast reports, and within minutes, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had sent Adelman instructions not to report to work.
“It has recently come to my attention that you are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. You are being placed on administrative leave effective immediately,” a letter from the Mayor’s Office said.
Villaraigosa was personally briefed by LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck on August 7, after the Mayor’s Office had been alerted.
According to the search-warrant affidavit written by LAPD Detective Javier Vargas, the detective began investigating on July 14, three days after the woman reported the alleged incident to authorities. The case is being handled by the elite Robbery-Homicide Division downtown.
Vargas sought to obtain video surveillance footage from security cameras at Adelman’s building on Wilshire Boulevard, plus computer records showing when Adelman’s key card was used. Both could be critical evidence that either strengthens the victim’s account or bolsters the probable denials by Adelman’s celebrity attorney, Mark Geragos, that drugging, rape or kidnapping were involved.
The accuser says she met friends for a “pub crawl” around 6:30 p.m. on July 10 at Kendall’s, an upscale bar and restaurant adjacent to the Music Center on Grand Avenue. Their plan, she says, was to have a few drinks and walk to other bars or restaurants.
She drank two Jack Daniel’s–and-Coke cocktails, the affidavit says, then outside met her friends, who’d brought along “Andrew” and three other men. She told police she knew of Adelman from news reports, and from her own professional career, but had never met him. Detective Vargas said the woman later identified Adelman from his driver’s-license photo, an unflattering double-chin mug shot stapled to the search warrant.
She drank a third Jack-and-Coke before the entire group walked to the Noe Restaurant at California Plaza around 7:45 p.m. She told police she stood in the popular outdoor plaza with others watching a concert by Tunisian “fusion-rock and hip-hop” artist MC Rai. Andrew joined her, and they each had a beer and spent 30 to 45 minutes watching. Then, she remembers nothing.
By the accuser’s timeline, everything went blank at about 9 p.m. She says she awoke to the horrific violation of her body by Adelman, lying next to her in bed in a strange apartment. “It was predawn, and light was starting to come through the windows,” Detective Vargas writes in the affidavit, and a hardcore porno movie was playing on a big-screen TV.
In details so disturbing they couldn’t be broadcast in radio and TV reports, the woman told police she felt robotic and had trouble controlling her motor skills. “[The victim] felt a hard object in her anus she believed to be a dildo or vibrator. There was also a vibrator in her vagina,” the report stated. “Andrew was naked beside her and was putting a large rubbery flesh-colored dildo into her mouth … he was also inserting a second smaller vibrator into her vagina,” the affidavit says.
“Andrew was very insistent about wanting to have anal sex. [The victim] repeatedly told him ‘no.’ [The victim] told Andrew she wanted to leave. Andrew inserted his penis into [the victim’s] vagina while one of the vibrators was still inside. [The victim] passed out.”
When the accuser awoke again, according to the report, Adelman sexually attacked her again. He later drove her back to her car, near Kendall’s restaurant.
While Vargas’ report doesn’t draw any conclusions, it’s easy to read between the lines in the affidavit and understand the woman believes she was drugged. She felt “like a robot,” unable to control her movements, emotions or speech — or to “physically or verbally” resist Adelman, she says. “She does not overindulge in public,” Vargas wrote, “never to the point of incapacitation.”
She told police she sought medical help first for the effects of an unknown drug in her system, then later for the alleged sexual assault.
By press time, the case had not yet been presented by LAPD to the District Attorney. Strangely, prosecutors say they learned of the investigation not from detectives but from a “defense attorney” who was somehow informed first.
Adelman ignored requests for comments. Geragos has spoken only to the L.A. Times, saying, “It’s unfortunate that … an investigation has been made public before any determination of the validity of the allegations has been made.”
While the allegations stunned officials at City Hall, Building and Safety insiders say several female employees have claimed that Adelman regularly made disturbing and crude sexual remarks.
A 2006 city audit found Adelman’s department reeling with mismanagement: It gave preferential treatment to rich developers; failed to supervise inspectors who often wield tremendous power over business owners, homeowners and others; and manipulated stats to make it seem that the department was getting a lot done.
At least five lawsuits filed by employees have named Adelman personally, with some workers describing him as having a volatile and sometimes abusive personality. His ex-wife has publicly said he has anger-management issues.
In 2008, a Weekly investigation revealed that L.A. has become the capital of the illegal billboard industry. Yet Adelman’s team — along with City Hall elected leaders — has for years blown off complaints and allowed the industry to weasel around regulations, effectively letting outdoor-advertising firms install signs almost anywhere without consequences.
During the past week, as well as during multiple previous investigations by the media and auditors which slammed Adelman’s oversight of a department that reaches deep into people’s lives, Adelman has routinely refused to explain his actions. That could be a difficult position to maintain if this case goes before a jury and opens up to scrutiny not only Adelman’s private life but also his City Hall activities.