A former Las Vegas police officer was acquitted of charges of making inappropriate advances toward a woman while in uniform.
On Wednesday, Robert Ortega, 36, was acquitted by a six-member jury in Magistrate Court on two petty misdemeanor charges of battery.
According to state police, a woman reported that she was working at a service station on Jan. 24, 2009, when Ortega, who was filling up his car, asked her what was wrong. She told the officer that her former boyfriend had been harassing her.
State police said the woman told them the two went into a private storage room, where Ortega allegedly kissed her and touched her buttocks without her consent.
According to an internal city police investigation, the woman immediately told others about the officer’s advances, including her co-worker, her boss and relatives.
Local attorney David Silva, whose firm represented Ortega, said his client denied from day one the woman’s allegations.
“There is no evidence it ever happened,” the attorney said.
He said city police detective John Trujillo couldn’t substantiate the woman’s story.
“The DA’s office decided to charge anyway,” Silva said.
District Attorney Richard Flores said his office doesn’t usually prosecute petty misdemeanor battery cases. But he said officers are held to a higher standard.
“If we didn’t enter an appearance, then people would criticize me that I’m not doing my job and am trying to protect a cop. I thought I did the right thing,” he said.
He acknowledged that his office had no physical evidence in the case but noted the witnesses who reported that the woman immediately told them about the allegations.
“I respect the jury’s verdict. Sometimes you win; sometimes you don’t,” the district attorney said.
Flores’ office is still pursuing an unrelated case against Ortega and his wife, Judith Ortega, 35, in which the couple are charged with distribution of prescription drugs.
A trial date has not been set.
Robert Ortega was placed on paid administrative leave the same day the allegations involving the woman surfaced. Four months later, the Police Department fired him. Shortly after that, city police officers arrested him on the drug charges.