Hector Paez, ex-Denver cop, convicted of sex assault but granted bond while he appeals

Back in October 2010, Denver police officer Hector Paez was charged with sex assault after allegedly coercing an arrestee into orally pleasuring him in order to avoid going to jail.

After a mistrial, numerous delays, a civil lawsuit and a media blitz by the accuser in the case, Paez has been convicted and sentenced to eight years behind bars for his actions. But in what the Denver DA's office calls an "unusual action," he's been granted bond while he appeals.

As we've reported, Paez is accused of having arrested a 36-year-old woman (described in a preliminary hearing as a heroin user with a lengthy rap sheet) in May of 2010, then taking her to an isolated location and forcing her to perform oral sex on him in order to avoid winding up behind bars. He was charged with second-degree kidnapping, sexual assault and an attempt to influence a public servant by lying about the incident during a subsequent Internal Affairs investigation.

Throughout the process, Paez has denied the allegations against him.

Jury selection for the trial against Paez took place in September 2011. But early on in the trial, the Denver Police Department provided a piece of evidence previously unknown to Paez's defense team -- a recording of a phone call involving the victim. And that afternoon, a second phone recording of the victim surfaced.

The next morning, the Paez defense team, led by attorney Gary Lozow, questioned Sergeant Kimalee Hull, the person charged with gathering the information in question, about why the recordings hadn't been provided when defense lawyers requested evidence against Paez last year. She said they had wound up in a file she'd forgotten about, and to which other officers had no access -- and she didn't find them until the last minute. She also mentioned a third recording, made when the victim was in a police car, but she recalled it being badly garbled and guessed that she had simply deleted it.

At that point, Lozow asked that the case be dismissed and the prosecution be sanctioned. Denver District Judge Robert McGahey said "no" to these requests, but he did grant a mistrial, after which the jury was disbanded. Then, after members headed home, the prosecution revealed that it had found the third recording -- the one Hull thought she'd tossed out.

Shortly thereafter, Lozow told us, "It's very unfortunate for Officer Paez to have to go through the stress and expense of preparing for a trial that was a year in the making -- to protest and be assertive in his innocence -- only to find out after a jury is picked that police officers involved in the investigation have not disclosed relevant material evidence in a timely fashion.

"This information was sought both through discovery and through subpoenas, and we didn't get it -- and that's how you're supposed to get it. And then, what's even more disconcerting is that we moved for a mistrial on the premise that a tape has been destroyed -- and everybody knows that's the reason, it's articulated in the record -- and after the jury is let go, they somehow find the tape. That's not how the system is supposed to go forward."

A new trial was set for April 2012, but it was delayed after Lozow was badly injured after his car crashed into Cherry Creek. The trial was moved back yet again, this time to the winter of 2012. But the victim in the case didn't want to wait -- and decided to make her identity known. Her name is Valerie Arend, and in May of last year, she filed a civil suit against Paez in which she provided more details about the incident -- and she did likewise in media interviews.

What happened?

Continue for more details about the Hector Paez case, including videos and a photo. Arend told CBS4 that she was waiting at a light-rail station for her boyfriend when Paez pulled up in his cruiser to check out reports of a suspicious female in the area. He soon discovered that there was a warrant out for Arend. But rather than taking her directly to jail, she says he drove through alleys and back streets for a while, then demanded that she perform oral sex on him, using the phrase, "You know what to do." She initially complied, she said, but when he wanted to take things further, she balked. She reacted to this encounter, added the Denver Post, by vomiting out the passenger door.

Here's the CBS4 report:

Attorney Lozow raised questions about Arend's motives after the filing of the civil suit and her series of media interviews. "Well, I've been called by you, by Channel 4, by Channel 7," he told us last May. "There seems to have been kind of an all-out blitz here. If it quiets down in the next few days, then hopefully it's not going to affect the selection of a jury. But if there's some continued effort to curry favor or taint the pool, we could have some problems."

Whether these concerns will play a part in Paez's appeal is unknown at this writing. However, he was ultimately convicted of second-degree kidnapping and sexual assault, both felonies, as well as false reporting, a misdemeanor, after a two-week trial. But at his sentencing hearing, CBS4 notes that he asked for probation, arguing that putting him in jail was tantamount to imposing a death sentence. As for his failure to apologize for his actions, he wondered, "Why should I show remorse for something I didn't do?"

Denver District Judge John Madden eventually gave Paez eight years -- a sentence less severe than Arend wanted. But in apparent acknowledgment of the dangers that face convicted police officers -- and, perhaps, the likelihood that a case this troubled could be granted a new trial -- Madden granted Paez a $100,000 bond while he appeals his conviction, over the objection of prosecutors.

Below, see CBS4's coverage of the latest developments, followed by a larger version of Paez's booking photo.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Hector Paez: Denver cop's attorney on alleged sex-assault victim's lawsuit, media blitz."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts