VICTORVILLE – A former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy entered no contest pleas Wednesday to two charges of committing oral copulation to an underage girl who was in the department’s Explorer education program.
One week earlier, Anthony Benjamin, 30, of Beaumont, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
His sentencing will likely be held on Aug. 30.
Benjamin was arrested in early May after allegations surfaced that he was involved with a 17-year-old female. The Explorer Program allows anyone from ages 14 to 21 opportunities to gain insight into a possible law enforcement career. Part of that program includes ride-alongs with officers.
In this case, the 17-year-old, who is now 18, was an Explorer at the Victorville station. Benjamin was charged with committing two acts of oral sex during a ride-along that took place on or about July 1, 2010 through Dec. 18, 2010.
District attorney’s office spokesman Christopher Lee confirmed that Benjamin will serve 270 days in jail followed by three years on probation, but said the disgraced law enforcement officer will not be required to register as a sex offender.
In an unrelated case involving the Explorer Program, a 27-year-old Rialto civilian agreed on Tuesday to a plea deal regarding an illicit sexual relationship with another teen volunteer of the educational program. Jason Anguiano, 27, of Rialto, will serve 180 days in jail and three years on probation on two counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object on a minor. Part of his plea deal includes registering as a sex offer, completing a sex offender treatment program and also submit to HIV testing.
Anguiano’s victim is also the plaintiff in the case against former Deputy Nathan James Gastineau, 31, of Redlands, who was accused of having sex with the 16-year-old.
Gastineau, who is no longer employed with the sheriff’s department, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child, plus three counts of illegal sexual intercourse with a minor. There is a preliminary hearing set for Oct. 3 in San Bernardino.
County Sheriff Rod Hoops suspended the ride-along program in May, and has since extended the original 60-day interruption. It’s not known when that portion of the program will resume.
Anguiano and Gastineau met the victim when they were all part of a group called the Inland Empire Ghostbusters. The group performs at youth parties, including Halloween parties, and other charity affairs.
If Benjamin had gone to trial and was convicted of both charges, he could have faced up to three years and eight months in prison.
Victorville is located in San Bernardino County, approximately 30 miles north of San Bernardino.