After backlash, DA Gascón charges Long Beach sex-assault suspect with felony staff KABC logo
Saturday, November 4, 2023
After backlash, Gascón files charge against LB sex-assault suspect
Los Angeles DA George Gascón has filed charges against a Long Beach sexual-assault suspect, after facing backlash for initially declining the case.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- After facing a backlash for declining to file charges against a suspect who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in Long Beach, DA George Gascón says his office has now taken on the case.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said Friday it has charged suspect Miguel Avila with felony assault with the intent to commit a forcible sex crime and misdemeanor sexual battery.

Investigators have identified Avila as the man seen on camera Oct. 20 approaching a woman who was walking on a sidewalk in downtown Long Beach.

"I want that guy in jail, so that he doesn't go and actually rape somebody." A brazen sexual assault in downtown Long Beach highlights a problem with the homeless and mentally ill that has become all too common in the area.

In surveillance video, the assailant unzips his pants and exposes his genitals as he walks up behind her, then lifts up her skirt and rubs against her. He then pushes her to the ground.

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Avila was arrested in the area a short time afterward.

Gascón's office initially declined to file a felony charge in the case, saying such a filing wasn't supported by the evidence.

That sent the matter to the Long Beach City Prosecutor's Office, which filed a misdemeanor case - but also urged the DA to take a second look.

Gascón said the city provided additional evidence that was not part of the original submission and his office decided to file the felony charge.

"The pursuit of justice requires careful scrutiny and a commitment to upholding the safety of our community. In light of new evidence, we have taken decisive action to ensure that those who commit serious sex crimes are held accountable," Gascón said. "I commend the victim for her bravery in coming forward. I want to emphasize that we will pursue this case with unwavering commitment. The accused will be held accountable for his actions."

Long Beach sexual assault victim questions why DA didn't file charges

"It's mind blowing because nobody in their right mind thinks this is anything but attempted rape," the victim told Eyewitness News.

The victim, Rebekah Pederson, told Eyewitness News earlier she was stunned by the DA's initial decision not to file a felony case, saying the video of her attack alone should have been considered sufficient evidence.

"It's mind blowing because nobody in their right mind thinks this is anything but attempted rape," Pederson said. "Nobody in their right mind. Not one person."

The DA is requesting bail of $150,000.