Hermosa Beach City Treasurer David Cohn denied in court Monday that he engaged in sexual activity with a Craigslist masseuse last month, although he acknowledged both were nude in his guest room.
Cohn's story of what happened in his guest room Nov. 3 came during a preliminary hearing in Torrance court that concluded with a judge ordering the masseuse and her boyfriend to stand trial for allegedly trying to extort $6,000 from the treasurer after taking his iPad. It was the first time Cohn has spoken publicly about the encounter.
Cohn's account, under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Erica Jerez and two deputy public defenders, also differed from the story Yuritsi Garcia told the Daily Breeze in an interview Nov. 27. Garcia said the 72-year-old elected official requested sex from her during the massage and grew angry when she refused his advances.
Cohn, wearing a dark suit and walking with a cane, testified that he responded Oct. 26 to an ad on Craigslist for a masseuse named "Diane" who offered her services for $65 for an hour. Cohn said he drove to Garcia's Maywood home, where he disrobed and lay down naked on a massage table. Garcia, fully clothed in blue tights and a top, performed the massage. Cohn said he needed treatment for his back, and denied asking for anything sexual from her.
"She told me I was cute and she'd like to see me again," Cohn said.
Cohn called the masseuse again on Nov. 3.
Cohn testified that Garcia removed her clothes at the same time, but also said he did not realize she was naked because he was facing the floor. About 20 minutes into the massage, "I realized she was totally nude." She asked him to turn over.
He said she also was using a sex "apparatus" on herself.
"At that point, I said, `I'm afraid. I don't like where this is going,"' Cohn said. He offered to pay her $65 and she agreed. Cohn said no sexual act occurred.
Garcia then texted someone to come pick her up. Cohn believed a woman was to arrive, but Gustavo Ceron, 29, knocked at the door, alarming him. Cohn said he asked Garcia about scheduling another appointment, something "under a more professional environment."
About 10 minutes after Garcia and Ceron left, Cohn noticed his iPad was no longer on his Parsons table near his front door.
Cohn said he immediately called Garcia, but she didn't answer. He texted her, asking her to return it. She responded, "What iPad?"
During several texts back and forth, Cohn received one that said, "Mr. Treasurer, I don't know what you are talking about."
"They knew who I was," he said.
Cohn said he received another text that said, "You are a public servant. Shame on you," and another that "claimed I insisted on sex."
Cohn said he called Apple and asked that his iCloud content storage system be erased. He did not tell police about the theft until he received text messages demanding $5,000 for the iPad's return. The price soon went up to $6,000 in cash, he said. Cohn said he reported the theft directly to interim Hermosa Beach Police Chief Steve Johnson.
Cohn, who is not married, said his iPad contained photographs of his family and the texts he was receiving threatened to expose them.
"She would release pictures of my family to city staff," he said. "We are a private family and those pictures don't go out to anybody."
Cohn testified that he was told that if he did not respond quickly, the price was to rise to $10,000.
Cohn said he arranged to meet the woman at a Chase bank branch in Bell. Police detectives met Garcia and Ceron instead, and arrested them. Each has been charged with attempted extortion.
Hermosa Beach Detective Joe Poelstra testified that the recovered tablet's contents had been erased.
Under questioning, Poelstra said Garcia told him following her arrest that she wore a "baby doll outfit" to Cohn's home and said her massages were indeed sexual. He said said she allowed men to touch her during massages and performed a sex act on them.
Garcia told Poelstra that she performed the sex act during the first massage at her Maywood home, and attempted to do it again Cohn's residence. Poelstra said she told him the massage ended because Cohn became frustrated when he was unable to perform.
In an interview outside court, Garcia, who is free on bail, said Cohn lied on the witness stand about what happened. In a previous interview with the Daily Breeze, Garcia said Cohn had sent her an explicit video and they had exchanged graphic phone calls.
Garcia said Monday that she looks forward to the trial, when the video can be played in court.
Deputy Public Defenders Ernestine Odom and Gregg Hayata, who represent Garcia and Ceron, respectively, both said following the court proceeding that they did not believe Cohn had been truthful.
Cohn's attorney, John Sweeney, attended the proceeding, but declined to answer questions.
"He is the victim and we will let the process take its course," Sweeney said.
Last week, Cohn appeared at the Hermosa Beach City Council meeting and said he would continue to "fulfill my obligation to the residents of Hermosa Beach."
Judge Hector Guzman scheduled a Dec. 31 arraignment date for Ceron and Garcia.
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