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Deputy Gets Probation for Pepper-Spraying a Pizza

The incident happened in South Orange County in 2012 The partakers in the altered pie reported experiencing discomfort in consuming it.

A Orange County Sheriff's deputy assigned to Laguna Hills received a sentence of one year probation for pepper-spraying a pizza. Patch file photo.
A Orange County Sheriff's deputy assigned to Laguna Hills received a sentence of one year probation for pepper-spraying a pizza. Patch file photo.

An Orange County sheriff's deputy was sentenced today to one year of informal probation and 100 hours of community service for pepper spraying a 19-year-old man's pizza during a routine traffic stop.

Juan Tavera, 30, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of assault or battery by a public officer.

The six-year veteran of the OCSD was assigned to the Laguna Hills area when he showed up Sept. 8, 2012, at a traffic stop by another deputy of a 19-year-old man, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.

During the traffic stop, Tavera saw that the man had a pizza in the backseat, and while the motorist was not looking, Tavera pepper-sprayed the food.

The man went home and shared the pizza with four friends. They all felt some discomfort from eating the pepper, and the man called sheriff's deputies to raise suspicions about Tavera, according to prosecutors.

--City News Service

Maura Mikulec January 17, 2014 at 10:25 PM
Why doesn't the article say ".....a former Orange County Sherriff's deputy..."? Please tell me he is no longer working in law enforcement.
KC January 17, 2014 at 10:42 PM
Spoiler alert, he still does. For some bastard reason the citizens of the county are totally cool with the police union that drains the states resources but flip out when teachers make more than the poverty line.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 17, 2014 at 10:46 PM
You know, the press release really isn't clear. This is a wire story, but I dug up the press release from the DA's office. Here it is, in its entirety: An Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) deputy was convicted and sentenced today to one year of informal probation and 100 hours of community service for pepper spraying a teen’s pizza during a routine traffic stop. Juan Tavera, 30, pleaded guilty today, Jan. 17, 2014, to one misdemeanor count of assault or battery by a public At the time of the crime, Tavera was a 6-year veteran of the OCSD assigned to the South Operations Division/Contract City On Sept. 8, 2012, the defendant arrived on-scene after 19-year-old John Doe was pulled over by a different officer for a traffic infraction in Laguna Hills. Upon arriving, the defendant found a pizza box on the backseat of the victim’s car and pepper sprayed the pizza without the victim’s knowledge. John Doe later returned to his home and shared the pizza with four friends, causing all five to experience discomfort as a result of ingesting pepper spray. John Doe notified OCSD after becoming suspicious of his earlier interaction with the OCSD immediately investigated this case and forwarded it to the Orange County District Attorney for review. Senior Deputy District Attorney Brett Brian of the Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted this case.
KC January 17, 2014 at 11:08 PM
It is quite clear with a few things, such as not getting hard time for something a civilian would most likely at least get jail time and formal probation for.
Donna Fleming January 18, 2014 at 10:54 AM
That uniform is like a bully pass. If he is on probation how could he be employed bas a deputy sheriff? That is horrifying.
KC January 18, 2014 at 02:05 PM
It doesn't matter if he is on the streets or riding a desk, if you were in the private sector and did the same thing you may very well be out of a job even if it was unrelated to your ability to perform said task.
jim capistrano January 18, 2014 at 02:40 PM
...I find it out of character that his defense didn't include the typical, "he was only following the training he received from the OCSD". This phrase has produced not guilty verdicts in numerous cases from San Clemente to Fullerton.
Tornado Johnson January 18, 2014 at 06:13 PM
It wasn't quite a routine traffic stop if the deputy pepper sprayed the pizza. If pepper sprayed a deputies pizza, I believe I would be in jail.
Shripathi Kamath January 18, 2014 at 07:34 PM
Compare this (not an exact apples to apples comparison) to the case of Michael Kevin Lallana who was convicted of masturbating into a co-worker water bottle. (http://www.ocregister.com/news/lallana-494763-home-bottle.html) ____________________________________________________ 180 days in jail, mandatory sex offender registration and $27,000 in restitution. Pretty sure that his professional career was also over. ____________________________________________________ Cue: "rather have pepper spray on pizza than semen" argument and ignore the statute. ____________________________________________________ Frankly, I'm amazed that they got a conviction. With video evidence, the DA managed to botch up the case of the homeless man being pummeled to death.
Kriston January 18, 2014 at 08:17 PM
Pretty d*ckheaded thing to do
Tornado Johnson January 18, 2014 at 10:44 PM
Penny, can you please let us know when you get a chance if this deputy is working? Kriston, I agree with you.
Sherri Bowler January 19, 2014 at 04:40 PM
Shripathi Kamath - I looked up the Lallana case. Once you get over the 'ick' factor - very comparable in deed and certainly not in sentence. Especially not when you factor in that the crime in this here case was committed while carrying a badge. Assault and Battery by an officer under color of authority. Is there a greater breach of public trust? Most astute of you to bring this up. It is truly amazing what sort of conduct police get away with these days, for no other reason than being Law Enforcement. I watched the Kelly Thomas surveillance video. While I was not on the jury, how a not guilty verdict, after watching that horrid film, could humanly be possible is inconceivable to me. Which makes the conviction here so much more amazing, but the sentence and consequences again is par for the course. One cannot help but feel that there is one law for them and one for the rest of us. Serve and protect my arse. I am not a spring chicken, and I never thought I would ever feel this way in my old age.
Kriston January 21, 2014 at 06:39 PM
If I worked at a pizza place and sprayed a deputy sheriffs pizza with pepper spray I would most assuredly be fired as well as be brought up on charges of assaulting an officer. Probation?? This deputy has shown his true character. He has probably engaged in this type of behavior before ( or looked the other way when other deputies have) and like will again. This is who we look to for protection? Ha!

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