Lawsuit over ex-SLOPD officer accused of extortion has been settled

San Luis Obispo police Chief Steve Gesell and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson express their disappointment in the conduct of Cory Pierce, a SLOPD officer arrested by the FBI on Feb. 5, 2013.
San Luis Obispo police Chief Steve Gesell and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson express their disappointment in the conduct of Cory Pierce, a SLOPD officer arrested by the FBI on Feb. 5, 2013.

The city and county of San Luis Obispo have reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by two confidential informants of disgraced former San Luis Obispo police officer Cory Pierce.

In December, the city paid $25,000 to Kip Holland and his girlfriend, who alleged that Pierce essentially held them in indentured servitude while keeping their relationship out of official records and forcing them to provide him with drugs, namely heroin.

The pair filed the lawsuit in federal court after a claim filed with the city of San Luis Obispo was rejected in January 2014.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2014, contained an allegation that Pierce forced the woman, identified as “Jane Roe,” to have sex with him.

Although she was named in the claim with Holland, that claim did not include the allegation of forced sex that was added in the lawsuit. It is the general policy of The Tribune to not identify victims, or potential victims, of sexual abuse.

In an email Friday, San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick said the settlement was reasonable compared with the cost of litigation.

“Both the city and county felt this case was meritless as to the agencies’ responsibility and arose solely from the unauthorized criminal conduct of a single officer who has now been held accountable,” Dietrick wrote. “However, in light of the number of parties, the complexities and costs of defending two agencies and disputing the officer’s right to a defense, I believe this was a very reasonable settlement.”

Stephen Dunkle, the attorney for Holland and “Jane Roe,” declined to comment on the case Friday.

Though the city and county were dropped as defendants in the lawsuit — Pierce was a member of the Sheriff’s Office’s narcotics task force — the city’s insurance authority covered the cost of the settlement due to Pierce’s position as a city police officer.

Pierce was arrested by FBI agents in February 2013 following an internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and San Luis Obispo Police Department into a host of allegations, including evidence tampering and theft.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury a month later on one count of bribery and another count of extortion. He pleaded not guilty to the bribery charge but took a plea deal with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to extortion in return for a shorter sentence. He was sentenced Dec. 10, 2014, to 18 months in prison and began his sentence at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego in January.

In their complaint, Holland and Roe alleged that they first came into contact with Pierce in March 2011 when Holland was arrested for possessing heroin at a traffic stop. Pierce took him to jail but kept his wallet, according to court documents. When Holland and Roe retrieved his wallet, Pierce allegedly asked for Roe’s phone number, which she provided.

From then, the complaint reads, Pierce repeatedly called Roe, asking that she obtain painkillers for him. She at first declined but eventually agreed because she thought he could help Holland with his criminal charges.

When Holland was sentenced to 20 days in jail, Pierce allegedly picked him up early and told him not to report to his probation officer. He didn’t, and from that point had almost no contact with the probation department for drug testing or treatment.

Over time, the complaint alleges, Pierce’s demands increased to heroin. The informants were also tipped off by Pierce to police investigations so they would not be arrested.

In March 2012, Pierce allegedly gave Roe fake painkillers and directed her to trade them among drug dealers for real pills, which he would then take from her. He also allegedly threatened the pair with arrest and violence if they didn’t comply.

The complaint also alleged that Pierce used his position to force Roe to engage in sex and oral copulation with him.

In January 2013, the two informants reported Pierce to the FBI, and Holland agreed to wear a wire in a conversation with Pierce, which allegedly recorded Pierce demanding that Holland buy and sell drugs for him. Pierce was arrested the next month.

In June 2014, the city and county were removed as defendants in the case. However, the lawsuit proceeded against Pierce.

That same month, Pierce’s attorneys filed a response to Holland and Roe’s allegations essentially denying everything outside of the extortion, for which he pleaded guilty.

As of Friday afternoon, Holland was being held at San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail for a probation violation. Roe, who was in custody on suspicion of burglary when the complaint was filed, was not in custody Friday, according to jail logs.

Pierce, 41, joined the San Luis Obispo Police Department in 2006, according to the city’s human resources department.

Federal prison records indicate that he is currently being held at a residential re-entry management center in Long Beach. He is scheduled to be released on May 16.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune