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EXCLUSIVE: 57th Assembly Candidate and Huntington Park Councilwoman Defendants in Sexual Battery Lawsuit

57th Assembly District candidate Efren Martinez and Huntington Park Councilwoman Graciela Ortiz.

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January 13, 2024

By Brian Hews • [email protected]

Los Cerritos Community News has obtained a lawsuit filed at the Norwalk Courthouse accusing Huntington Park Councilwoman Graciela Ortiz and 57th Assembly District candidate Efren Martinez of negligence, a failure to supervise and attempting to cover up the actions of their campaign employee Billy Valdivia during Ortiz and Martinez’ campaigns in 2020-2021.

Ortiz was running for Huntington Park City Council, and Martinez was running for the Democratic Party Executive Committee at the time.

The lawsuit was filed by “B.A.” and alleges sexual assault and battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy. The attorney for Ms. B.A. is Thomas Scully, based out of Culver City.

Valdivia was convicted on April 8, 2021 of annoying and molesting Ms. B.A., a child under the age of 18 at the time, and carrying a loaded firearm on the person or in a vehicle.

Prior to the conviction, Ms. B.A. gave a victim impact statement that led to the conviction of Valdivia; Valdivia is now a registered sex offender with the state of California.

The lawsuit alleges the crimes occurred in connection with a commercial space that was turned into a political campaign office in Huntington Park in late 2020 and early 2021.

The entity Yvote!, which is an abbreviation or social media handle for Youth Vote, was utilized to mobilize youth volunteer campaign workers, some of whom were underage, in support of the political campaigns of Martinez and Ortiz.

Ortiz was the primary person in charge of the campaign, organizing the volunteers and instructing them on what to do, including interactions with Valdivia, “an employee and authorized agent of the political campaign.”

Martinez was allegedly a good friend of Valdivia at the time, as witnessed by the complaint stating that Ortiz and Martinez hired Valdivia as a coordinator of the volunteers and that Martinez gave Valdivia his car to use for their campaigns.

It was in Martinez’ car where the alleged sexual assault and battery took place between Valdivia and Ms. B.A.

According to the lawsuit, Valdivia’s conduct occurred principally in the early weeks of 2021 while Ms. B.A. was working at Martinez’s campaign office under Ortiz’s instruction. Valdivia was involved in the media campaign, creating video advertising for Martinez and using his vehicle to drive the volunteers, including B.A., around the area. He would drop volunteers off for door-to-door solicitation, and would take them home, sometimes very late.

The lawsuit alleges that while Valdivia was alone in Martinez’ vehicle with B.A., he sexually assaulted and battered her inside the car. Valdivia’s conduct was especially violent and intimidating because he showed her his firearm and intimated that he would use it. He also had a badge that he flashed in front of B.A. that resembled a police badge; the lawsuit alleges that Martinez had obtained an honorary or souvenir police badge that he allowed Valdivia to use.

According to the lawsuit, Valdivia had been charged with weapons charges years before and more recently accused of domestic violence in a highly contentious divorce proceeding.

“As long-time friends or associates of Billy Valdivia, both Graciela Ortiz and Efren Martinez knew, or should have known about these problems with his record, they should have done a background check. They were grossly negligent in authorizing him to be the leader of the minors [campaign workers] in Yvote!,” the lawsuit stated.

“Valdivia was unfit for the role of driver of underage volunteers….and he was a special risk to minors, especially young ladies like Ms. B.A. who was 16 years old at the time. Their negligent hiring, retention and supervision was a substantial factor in causing Plaintiff’s damages.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Ortiz and Martinez conspired to cover up Valdivia’s conduct, discrediting B.A. and her friends and family.

The lawsuit is requesting a jury trial, money damages against Valdivia to compensate B.A. for her damages, including her emotional damages; punitive or damages against Valdivia for his intentional torts; a finding of joint and several liability for negligent hiring, supervision, and retention against Martinez and Ortiz, and a finding of joint and several liability for the civil conspiracy to cover up.

In a joint statement exclusively sent to Los Cerritos Community Newson on Jan. 13 , Martinez and Ortiz called the complaint a frivolous, politically driven lawsuit filed by an anonymous party.

“Mr. Martinez and Ms. Ortiz have directed a demand for their immediate dismissal from a lawsuit filed by attorney Thomas Scully. Mr. Scully has direct ties to Linda Luz Guevara, a former member of the Huntington Park City Council who was removed from office.

“Ms. Guevera has on numerous occasions attacked Mr. Martinez and Ms. Ortiz, posting false and defamatory allegations against these two leaders once again in an attempt to grab headlines and attention against Martinez and Ortiz during campaign season.”

Researching court data, LCCN found that Scully did have ties to Linda Luz Guevara. In 2021, Martinez sued Guevara and former Huntington Park Councilwoman Linda Caraballo for violating his civil rights alleging false and defamatory statements posted by Caraballo and Guevara on Facebook, case number 21NWCV00566.

Former Water Replenishment District Director Albert Robles represented Martinez; in July 2022 Caraballo and Guevara were granted relief and, in an anti-SLAPP motion, recovered $10,890 in attorney fees.

The statement continued, “The attorney for Martinez and Ortiz has demanded a complete dismissal of this “politically motivated, frivolous and misguided piece of litigation.” The demand to Mr. Scully goes on to clarify that the allegations in the lawsuit are false, inaccurate and without legal authority.

“We unequivocally denounce the victimization and abuse against any individual in our communities. This is clearly a politically driven attack and we are disgusted that malicious actors are taking the trauma of this victim and weaponizing it for their own gain. They have clearly not considered that they themselves are re-victimizing this individual by pursuing erroneous and frivolous litigation. Both of us have hosted thousands of volunteers in our years of community work and we have never allowed or condoned the type of abuse described and we had absolutely no knowledge or involvement.

“Mr. Scully’s attempt to smear the reputation of Martinez and Ortiz to these circumstances which occurred nearly three years ago is wrong and not legally authorized.

“We are being named in this misguided lawsuit against us when we know that the true motivation is to attempt to derail our efforts to serve our local residents at the State and School District levels. This is nothing more than dirty politics at its lowest level.”

LCCN contacted Ms. B.A.’s attorney Thomas Scully who said, “I have no comment on ongoing litigation, my objective is to help my client, my aim is to help her.”

Martinez sends out another statement

Just today, Jan. 15, 2024, Martinez sent out another statement stating that Valdivia and Ms. B.A. never worked for his campaign; Martinez did not assert those facts in the first statement.

LCCN did get a call from a source on Jan. 14 who did not want to be identified that worked for Martinez stating that Valdivia was a vendor who produced videos.

The statement:

SOUTH LOS ANGELES, CA (Jan 15, 2024) – Efren Martinez has responded to the attorney who has filed a frivolous, politically driven lawsuit filed by an Anonymous Party.

The attorney for Martinez has demanded a complete dismissal of this “politically motivated, frivolous and misguided piece of litigation.”  The demand to Mr. Scully goes on to clarify that the allegations in the lawsuit are false, inaccurate and without legal authority.

In a statement Martinez stated “I unequivocally denounce any victimization and abuse against any individual in our communities. This is clearly a politically driven attack, and we are disgusted that malicious actors are taking the trauma of this victim and weaponizing it for their own gain. I have hosted thousands of volunteers in my years of community work and have never allowed or condoned any type of abuse and we had absolutely no knowledge or involvement.

No one mentioned in the slanderous lawsuit has ever been an employee of my campaign nor was the plaintiff ever a volunteer with my 2020 primary or general campaign. In fact, I never ran for executive board for the Assembly Dem Party in 2020/2021 as it is claimed in the lawsuit; therefore, plaintiff could not have volunteered for my executive board race; showing even further that this is a frivolous, politically driven lawsuit.  We look forward to clarifying these lies and holding those responsible, and Anyone Who Uses this Misinformation, ACCOUNTABLE. This is nothing more than dirty politics at its lowest level.”

Mr. Scully’s attempt to smear the reputation of Martinez to these circumstances which occurred nearly three years ago is wrong and not legally authorized.

  • Residents who know the Truth says:

    I do not believe Efren Martinez statement. I have these Questions to Efren Martinez.
    Question to Efren Martinez? How did Billy Valdivia have access to your city commissioner badge? When he was arrested Valdivia had in his possession your City Badge!
    Question to Efren Martinez? How did Billy Valdivia have access to your personal truck? It is alleged that all assaults took place inside your personal vehicle?
    Question to Efren Martinez? When Billy Valdivia was in police custody, why did Billy Valdivia contact you first?
    Question to Efren Martinez? Did you not obtain the Law Offices of Albert Robles, to sue Linda Caraballo? Did you hire Albert Robles to defend Billy Valdivia? Because Albert Robles was the attorney of record defending Billy Valdivia.
    Question to Graciela Ortiz? Is it not true that officers involved with the arrest of Valdivia were terminated.

    People know the truth.