Fake Cop's Victim Discusses Impact

  • by Seth Hemmelgarn
  • Saturday September 5, 2015
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One of the male victims of a San Francisco man accused of being a fake cop and convicted of sexual assault and other charges said in superior court this week that his life was upended by the experience.

"This criminal appeared in my life to destroy everything that was good," said the man, identified only as Luis.

Jeffrey Bugai, 36, was convicted in February of 17 felony counts, including sexual assault, forcible oral copulation, unlawfully administering a drug, and other charges.

Prosecutors are asking that he be sentenced to life in prison, and the public defender's office has calculated that the minimum sentence will be 45 years to life.

Jurors agreed that Bugai had attempted to orally copulate one victim "by threat of the use of official authority," but found him not guilty of impersonating a public officer in at least one other count. The jury hung on a charge that Bugai had kidnapped one of his victims, all of whom were undocumented immigrants.

Bugai victimized five men between January 2008 and the end of March 2014. He was also convicted of extorting another man. He had met most of his victims at a bar where he worked as a security guard.

Luis, 30, spoke through a Spanish interpreter in court Monday, August 31 to describe the impact Bugai's had on him.

He said Bugai had pretended to be a police officer, kidnapped, beaten, and "tried to sexually abuse" him. He said he'd feel the fear he'd experienced "until the last day I live."

He said he came to the U.S. from Guatemala "to financially support my family and to save money for my dreams," which included continuing his university studies.

Luis said, "Out of fear of being deported, I decided not to say anything" after the 2008 incident. He said he'd turned to drugs and alcohol, "trying to forget that dark night," and he lost his job. His wife stopped him from taking his own life, he said.

He also said during the proceedings against Bugai that people from the public defender's office had laughed at him when he saw them out in the city.

"This man should pay" by spending "the rest of his life in prison," Luis said.

Luis' wife broke down in tears as she spoke Monday. She said when she'd fallen in love with him, he had an "adventurous character" and was "responsible and hard working." After the incident with Bugai, she said, it was "the first time I had ever heard fear in his voice."

They're now separated, and she told Bugai, who didn't look at her or her husband during their statements, "You have broken a family apart." (The couple has a young daughter.)

She added, "I hope that justice is served by keeping you off the street for the rest of your life."

Bugai made rambling statements Monday that went on for much of the afternoon.

Among other things, he suggested that Luis and the other victims in the case had made up their statements in exchange for being permitted to stay in the U.S.

He asked retired Judge Jerome T. Benson to "look beyond the tears and the garbage and lies you heard this morning," and he said, "I am absolutely and completely 100 percent innocent" of the counts he'd been convicted on.

Bugai also told Benson that he wanted a new attorney, but Benson told him he'd given up that chance.

Finally, toward the end of the day, Benson told him, "I'm going to get off the bench in just a minute whether you're done talking or not."

He continued the hearing to Wednesday, September 9.

In response to emailed questions, Deputy Public Defender Phoenix Streets, who represented Bugai, said the delay between the verdict and the sentencing, which is expected next week, "was due to a number of factors such as [a] new trial motion."

Bugai appeared in a wheelchair Monday. Streets said "medical privacy laws" prevented him from commenting on why.

As for Luis' allegation that people from the public defender's office had laughed at him and Bugai's wanting a new attorney, Streets said, "The San Francisco Public Defender's office put much effort, time, and resources in the defense of Mr. Bugai. I am grateful to everyone who assisted his defense. I am proud to be a part of this office of devoted defenders."

Sharon Reardon, the assistant district attorney who had prosecuted the case, is now a judge. Assistant District Attorney Jason Peck appeared in court Monday.

According to court records, Bugai changed his name to Jeffrey Thomas in 2011.