MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) --A Merced area CHP officer is facing child molestation charges. A grand jury indicted 38-year-old Gilbert Gutierrez on two counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child.
Action News knows the alleged victim in this case is a 10-year-old girl. Investigators said Gutierrez is accused of sexually touching her during a sleepover at his house this past summer.
Gutierrez has worked as a California Highway Patrol officer for the past six years and moved to the Merced area office from San Jose in 2013. But now he's accused of violating the laws he swore to protect. "The sheriff's office was made aware of an allegation of lewd and lascivious acts and sexual misconduct between he and a minor, a ten-year-old female," said Sgt. Delray Shelton, Merced County Sheriff's Office.
Gutierrez is facing two counts for allegedly touching the girl in a sexual way at his home on Franklin Road back in July. Detectives served a warrant there during a two week investigation before turning the information over to the District Attorney's Office. Prosecutors presented the case to a criminal grand jury last week. "The grand jury was a good option to allow the young victim to testify in private, so we were able to spare her going into open court," said Katie Gates, Merced County Deputy DA.
The grand jury indicted Gutierrez Thursday. He was booked into jail that night but released less than 30 minutes later after posting a $300,000 bond. Authorities said he was not on duty at the time of the allegations, but his role as a CHP officer does make this case especially disturbing. "We take all of these cases very seriously. It's particularly shocking when someone is accused who is a peace officer, who we expect to be a role model for the community, so this was unusual in that sense, though, we are pursuing the case like we would any other child abuse or molestation case," said Gates.
He's scheduled to appear in court next month and faces a maximum of 16 years in prison, if convicted.
His defense attorney did not return our call.
Statement from CHP Captain Brian Hawkins regarding indictment of Officer Gilbert Gutierrez:
"The allegations that have been brought forward are disturbing.
The CHP takes any allegation of misconduct by its employees whether on or off duty very seriously. The CHP is fully cooperating with the investigating agencies and is conducting its own administrative investigation into the allegations. While the investigations are being conducted, the officer remains an employee of the Department and is working in the office in an administrative position. His peace officer powers have been revoked pending the results of the department's internal investigation.
The CHP is a proud and professional organization. I want to emphasize to the public that the alleged conduct of this employee does not reflect the values, hard work, dedication and professionalism of the CHP and all of its more than 11,000 employees who proudly work each day to provide the best in Safety, Service, and Security to the people of California.