3 ex-Santa Ana police officers sentenced to community service for theft, vandalism in pot shop raid

Three Santa Ana police officers who were charged with misdeeds during a search warrant operation at a marijuana dispensary entered no contest pleas to misdemeanor charges.

Jorge Arroyo, 34, and Nicole Lynn Quijas, 39, pleaded no contest Tuesday to petty theft involving snacks that were taken from a break room. Co-defendant Brandon Matthew Sontag, 33, pleaded no contest to one count each of petty theft and vandalism of security cameras.

A no-contest plea means the defendants do not admit the allegations against them, but have chosen to no longer contest them.

If the three complete community service and other terms of the plea, then the charges will be dismissed, said Deputy District Attorney Brett Brian.

The judge in the case did not accept the pleas, leaving the case in legal limbo
pending the completion of the volunteer work.

Arroyo and Quijas must complete 40 hours of community service and pay$200 to the victim witness emergency fund, while Sontag must perform 80 hours of community service, pay $200 to the fund and make "full restitution," according to Brian.

Brian said the aim of the plea deal was to have the officers acknowledge "what they did was wrong," and then to fashion an appropriate punishment.

All three remain on the job.

Arroyo's attorney, Robert Gazley, said his client "did not admit petty theft yesterday. What he did was plead that he would not be contesting these allegations."

Quijas' attorney, John Barnett, declined comment. Sontag's attorney, Michael D. Schwartz, could not be immediately be reached.

Arroyo and Quijas are scheduled to return to court on April 30, and Sontag on Oct. 31 of next year.

The three served a search warrant with fellow officers about 5:50 p.m. on May 26, 2015, at the Sky High Holistic marijuana dispensary.

Sontag was accused of damaging five surveillance cameras, and Sontag and Quijas were each accused of taking a protein bar, according to prosecutors. Quijas and Arroyo were additionally accused of taking cookies.

Brian said it was important to note that the officers did not eat anydrug-laced snacks as was initially alleged by some critics.

The incident made headlines when surveillance video of the raid, showing officers ridiculing a woman who uses a wheelchair because her left leg was amputated, surfaced.

The dispensary sued, alleging that some officers "made discriminatory statements about plaintiff Marla James, who is a disabled individual protected by state and federal anti-discrimination laws."