A homeless man pleaded not guilty today in a high-profile case where he’s accused of pulling up a woman’s dress and sexually assaulting her as she walked through Downtown Long Beach.
Miguel Avila, 30, is charged with a felony count of assault with intent to commit a forcible sex crime and one count of misdemeanor sexual battery.
He appeared in court Monday to face the newly filed felony charge, which the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office brought Friday after the case made headlines around the region.
The DA’s office originally forewent charging Avila with a felony, saying it could not prove his intent when he allegedly followed the woman and exposed himself before pulling up her skirt and pressing himself against her on Oct. 20. The resulting video, which shows the woman being knocked to the ground before a bystander scares off the attacker, quickly spread after being posted online.
When it originally reviewed the case last week, the DA’s office decided to refer it to the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office, which handles misdemeanors in the city. City Prosecutor Doug Haubert filed a misdemeanor sexual battery charge against Avila but also encouraged the DA’s office to reconsider, saying in an email that “this could be an attempted rape, or assault with attempt to commit rape.”
After receiving the email and new evidence provided by Haubert’s office, a prosecutor within the DA’s sex crimes division “meticulously” reviewed the case, and made the decision to file the felony assault charge against Avila, according to the DA’s office.
“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,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement Friday. “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.”
Avila was arrested hours after the attack on Oct. 20. During Avila’s court appearance Monday, a judge upped his bail from $75,000 to $100,000. He is due back in court on Nov. 14.