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Fabian Cota, Mesa Police Officer, to Appeal Demotion That Followed San Diego Arrest for Alleged Public Drunkenness

Two San Diego police officers are lying to cover up evidence of last summer's illegal "attitude arrest" of former Mesa Police Association president Fabian Cota.

At least, that's what Cota claims.

The officers, on the other hand, say they detained Cota because he was yelling at them drunkenly from a pedicab as they tried to interview another person.

Cota will get the chance to confront the officers during an upcoming appeal of his demotion from sergeant to patrol officer over the incident. The city of Mesa is flying the witnesses out for the hearings on March 14 and 15.

Last year, the city of San Diego rejected a $2.75 million claim Cota filed for false arrest and violation of rights. He says he's still contemplating filing a lawsuit, which he can do until April. He also says that he may yet sue Mesa.

The incident was costly for Cota, costing him $40,000 a year in pay. He also had to step aside from his job as a union official.

Cota says he's being railroaded by two corrupt police departments -- his own, and San Diego's.

Fabian Cota, now a patrol officer for Mesa PD, met us recently at a local coffeeshop on his day off to give an update on his struggle to appeal a demotion.
Fabian Cota, now a patrol officer for Mesa PD, met us recently at a local coffeeshop on his day off to give an update on his struggle to appeal a demotion.
Image: Ray Stern

He points out that the San Diego cop shop has busted numerous officers for unethical behavior in the last few years, including one recently sentenced for sexually assaulting DUI suspects.

Two of these allegedly amoral officers were patrolling the Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego at about 3 a.m. on June 4 when they encountered Cota, who admits he'd had "five drinks" that night.

Cota says he was out with his nephew following a wedding in the area they attended. His nephew had already signed up to be the designated driver for the pair, Cota says. But when they prepared to drive back to the hotel, they couldn't find their car. They bumped into a pair of friendly girls who were looking for their own car and all hopped into a pedicab to look for the vehicles.

One of the girls spotted her car and got out of the pedicab. Cota says he wasn't really paying attention, but noticed what he thought were two security guards hassling the girl. He remembers hearing one of the men say to the girl, "Oh, yeah, let's see if you're too drunk to drive."

Cota says he turned to the nearest "security guard," about 10 or 15 feet away, and yelled, "Why are you guys acting like dipshits toward these girls?"

That's when he noticed they weren't rent-a-cops, they were real-a-cops -- and he'd ticked them off with his smart-alecky quip. They asked him to step out of the pedicab, then handcuffed him, Cota says. On the way to a detox facility, they found his union card and laughed at him as they drove, keeping his handcuffs too tight, he says.

Cota was held for four hours at the detox facility and released without charges. He says the supervisor of the facility didn't think he was drunk.

The police report, however, contradicts much of Cota's story.

The two San Diego cops claim they were concerned that the obviously drunk girl from the pedicab intended to drive, and were interrupted as they questioned her by Cota's yelling. As we reported in June:

"I told Cota to leave because he was intoxicated and would end up in jail if he stayed," Officer Justin Mattly wrote in his report. "Cota said, 'Well take me to jail you fucking dickweeds!"

Cota says that and other quotes from the police report are pure fiction.

After making a "classic attitude arrest," the officers had to cover their tracks and make the bust look proper, he says. Cota believes the officers conspired to create the bogus account of the events before writing it up.

 

At the time, Cota was still on probation with his department because, according to an investigation, he hadn't been truthful about how his union had gotten hold of the addresses of Mesa police officers. The investigators recommended he be fired, but the department later determined Cota hadn't meant to be untruthful. He was given a three-day suspension.

Because of that debacle and tense union negotiations with the city that Cota had led, Mesa City Manager Chris Brady and some of the higher-ups in the police department were angry at him.

Cota says his superiors leaked information about the San Diego flap to the news media in order to embarrass him.

The city subjected Cota to another internal investigation, where he was found responsible for improper conduct and stripped of his sergeant's stripes.

Cota says it's ironic that the city would spread gossip about him to the news media, then claim he'd put the city in a bad light. But he's not sure who tattled on him. He asked New Times to reveal its source of information about the San Diego incident, saying he thought the knowledge would help his case.

New Times would not disclose its sources.

We'll follow up on this story after the hearing next month.


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