SAN JOSE -- A longtime San Jose police officer faces time behind bars after pleading no contest Tuesday to felonies related to bogus tickets issued to parties in a 5-year-old personal legal matter, prosecutors said.
George Chavez, 51, is scheduled to be sentenced April 3 for three felony counts of false personation and one felony count of filing a false report. Santa Clara County prosecutor Daniel Rothbach said he could get a maximum of five years in state prison, but acknowledged that there were no conditions as part of the plea deal and Chavez could be sentenced to probation.
Prosecutors said Chavez -- a 23-year-veteran of the force -- wrote phony citations last October targeting the driver of the other vehicle in a 2008 traffic accident, as well as his own attorney.
Authorities said he used his police computer to look up the Texas man he sued following the accident, as well as the Sacramento attorney involved in a corresponding civil suit, and then issued a traffic citation and two tickets for illegally parking in a handicapped zone. The signatures of both victims were forged, as were those of police officers who purportedly issued the tickets.
One of those officers was notified that the traffic ticket he supposedly wrote was up for administrative review and, realizing he didn't write it, alerted a supervisor, bringing the gambit to light. The resulting police investigation unearthed the parking tickets in question, and Chavez surrendered to authorities in November.
"It's important to hold members of the law enforcement community accountable," said Rothbach, "when they misuse the powers that we have entrusted to them."
Rothbach added that the unusual scheme was the first case of its kind that he has seen in five years as a prosecutor.
Chavez was placed on administrative leave when the allegations surfaced. San Jose police officials on Tuesday would say only that his status is "service retirement deferred" and directed all queries to the district attorney's office.
Chavez's attorney in the criminal case could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.