December 21, 2012
Former cop pleads to off-duty punch outside Oroville casino
OROVILLE — A former Chico police officer has pleaded no contest to charges stemming from an off-duty incident outside an Oroville casino last year.
Defense attorney Denny Forland entered the plea Monday on behalf of Todd Lopez, according to supervising deputy district attorney Kurt Worley. Lopez had been scheduled to stand trial in Butte County Superior Court on a misdemeanor count of simple battery for the Nov. 23, 2011, incident in the Feather Falls Casino parking lot.
During the incident, casino staff asked Robert Rossini to leave because he had reportedly been drinking and was acting obnoxiously. Rossini reportedly insulted a woman having dinner with Lopez.
Lopez followed Rossini out and confronted him at Rossini’s vehicle.
Surveillance video reportedly showed Lopez backing the man up a driveway and then throwing a right cross to the man’s mouth. Rossini suffered a split lip that required stitches.
The judge sentenced Lopez to 20 days in Butte County Jail and 10 hours of anger management counseling. The defendant must report to jail on Jan. 11, but Worley said Lopez would likely be placed on alternative custody.
Worley said he had asked for 30 days jail in addition to the counseling. He said the incident included several mitigating and aggravating factors, including the fact that Lopez had law enforcement training.
"He should’ve known better than to react to provocation," Worley said.
Worley said casino staff reported that Rossini had allegedly
challenged Lopez to fight while in the casino. However, the prosecutor said it was clear that Rossini was backing away from Lopez during the confrontation outside.
Worley also acknowledged the conviction — which includes a 10-year bar on the possession or use of firearms — would likely eliminate Lopez’s chances of returning to his law-enforcement career.
Lopez had resigned his position at Chico police earlier this summer. He had been placed on desk duty when charges were filed in March.
While the criminal case has been resolved, Lopez faces action in civil court. On Dec. 3, Rossini filed a lawsuit alleging assault, battery and emotional distress from the incident. He is seeking more than $25,000 in unspecified damages related to things such as medical expenses, lost wages and punitive damages.
A hearing on the new case was set for June 7.