2 women file claim against California county in deputy’s sextortion case

Two women who claimed they were sexually extorted by a Riverside County sheriff’s correctional deputy charged with 18 felony counts spoke out on Tuesday, Sept. 26, just before their attorneys filed a claim against the county for unspecified damages.

Christian Phillip Heidecker, 32, was booked at the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in French Valley on September 15. He’s been charged with four counts of having sex with an inmate, four counts of extortion, four counts of a public official seeking a bribe, three counts of sexual penetration under color of authority, and three counts of discouraging a witness.

In announcing Heidecker’s arrest, the Sheriff’s Department stated that there were four female victims.

On September 20, Heidecker pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was still being held in jail on Tuesday in lieu of $1 million bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again on October 2. He has left the Sheriff’s Department.

Heidecker previously worked at the Coordinated Custody Management Unit in Banning for the Riverside Alternative Sentencing Program.

The claim is a legally required step before filing a lawsuit.

The two women, who did not want to be identified, spoke outside the Riverside government center. One is 34, while the other is 27.

“We want other victims to come forward and not be scared of the Sheriff’s Department,” stated the 34-year-old.

“We just want justice,” the 27-year-old said. “I want every other girl to not be afraid.”

Denisse Gastelum, one of their attorneys, claimed Heidecker sent the women sexually explicit photos of himself and demanded similar videos from the two women. Heidecker would promise the women, who were not in jail but were wearing ankle monitors, more time away from home or with their families in exchange for sex, according to Gastelum.

The attorney also took issue with the county’s $1,000 settlement agreements, which both women accepted. The county, according to Gastelum, is attempting to “keep their mouths shut” about Heidecker.

Gastelum is incorrect about the agreements, according to county spokeswoman Brooke Federico.

“Pre-litigation settlements do not contain non-disclosure language,” Federico stated. “In fact, because this case involves an ongoing criminal investigation, these women may be called to testify in a criminal trial.” Any pre-litigation settlement should not be characterized as an attempt to buy silence.It is not uncommon to seek settlement prior to litigation in order to avoid the time and expense associated with lawsuits on both sides.”

Federico stated that the county has received the claim and that officials are deciding what to do next.

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