SAN JOSE -- A San Jose police officer made his first court appearance since he was charged with raping a woman while on duty last fall, in a case that shone a harsh spotlight on police and strained its relationship with immigrant communities.
Geoffrey Evatt Graves, a six-year member of the San Jose Police Department, was arraigned in a San Jose courtroom Monday to answer allegations that in September he escorted a woman to a hotel after she had been involved in a domestic dispute, then after waiting for another officer to leave, entered her room and raped her.
Clad in a black suit with San Francisco-based attorney Darlene Bagley standing alongside him, Graves did not enter a plea and his only words were "Yes, your honor" when confirming he waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 60 days. His next court date was set for April 14. The charge of forcible rape carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison.
Graves, who is free on $100,000 bail and on administrative leave from SJPD, did not speak to reporters after the brief hearing, during which Judge Hector Ramon signed orders barring the police officer from contacting his accuser and requiring him to surrender his firearms.
The disturbing accusations against Graves grew even more serious after sources told this newspaper that the alleged victim is an illegal immigrant with a limited command of English, which social-rights advocates said made her particularly vulnerable and likely fearful of challenging a police officer.
"No one's happy about this," said Deputy District Attorney Carlos Vega, referring to the public-trust damage from the rape charge. "But based on the evidence we have, we believe we can prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt."
Graves, 38, of Gilroy, was arrested March 10 following a five-month Internal Affairs investigation into the Sept. 22 incident that began with a police call to a home where a married couple was arguing. After the four responding officers -- including Graves -- determined no crime had occurred, the woman told them she did not want to stay at home that night and asked to be taken to a hotel.
According to the investigation, Graves and another officer traveled to the hotel and waited for the woman to check into a room. After the second officer left to answer another police call, Graves reportedly stuck around and later returned to the woman's room, where he overpowered her and "forcibly engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim before leaving the hotel approximately 10 minutes later."
On Oct. 13, about three weeks later, the woman came forward to allege the attack by Graves. Social-justice groups hailed her bravery; while San Jose police policy bars officers from inquiring about residency status to encourage residents in immigrant communities to cooperate with police, suspicion and deportation fears persist.
Her report spurred an investigation that reportedly discovered her DNA on Graves' bulletproof vest -- he reportedly shed parts of his uniform but kept the vest on during the alleged attack. Sources said the nature of the DNA and amount of bodily fluid present could not have come from casual contact.
This is not the first time Graves' police career has been in jeopardy: In 2011, amid a custody battle with his ex-wife, she obtained a protective order against him after alleging a violent road encounter. Graves successfully fought her attempts at a restraining order that would have prevented him from possessing firearms.
Police discipline policy relies on a "preponderance of evidence" of misconduct rather than the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard required in criminal court. So even if he avoids conviction, Graves could still be terminated if the police department decides his credibility has been too damaged to return to duty.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.