An officer with the California Highway Patrol in Merced has been indicted on two counts of child molestation, the Merced Sun-Star has confirmed.
Gilbert Gutierrez, 38, faces two counts of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office said.
Brian Andritch, the attorney representing Gutierrez, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Gutierrez has yet to enter a plea in court.
The allegations center around a slumber party on July 21, 2015, in Merced County in which Gutierrez is accused of sexually touching a girl under the age of 14, authorities said. The alleged victim’s exact age could not immediately be confirmed.
If convicted, Gutierrez faces up to 16 years in state prison, according to Rob Carroll, chief deputy district attorney.
Gutierrez was booked into the Merced County Jail on Thursday following the grand jury hearing. He posted a $300,000 bail bond and was released, according to jail records.
The case was investigated by the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.
District Attorney Larry Morse II acknowledged prosecutors did not announce the indictment to the public.
“In these cases our primary concerns are to hold a person accountable for what they may have done and to protect the victim to the extent that it’s possible,” Morse said.
Morse said protecting the alleged victim’s identity also was part of the reason prosecutors took the unusual step of taking the case to a grand jury, avoiding a preliminary hearing in which the victim would have to testify in open court.
Officer Moises Onsurez, a CHP spokesman, confirmed Gutierrez is a CHP officer in Merced.
“We are aware of (the investigation), but any questions about that need to be directed to the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department,” Onsurez said.
Onsurez said he could not say whether Gutierrez remains on duty or if he has been placed on administrative leave, citing personnel laws and protections from the California Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights.
“All I can say is that he is employed by the CHP,” Onsurez said.
Gutierrez has been with the CHP for about six years. He spent four years with the CHP in San Jose and transferred to Merced County at the beginning of 2013, Onsurez confirmed.
He is scheduled for arraignment on Feb. 8.
This story will be updated later today.