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Falsely accused of lewd conduct by Manhattan Beach police, one man’s horrifying ordeal

Charles Samuel Couch was falsely accused of lewd conduct by Manhattan Beach police in a botched undercover sting operation, and it took about two years for the city and police department to finally admit it. On Friday, Couch’s attorney will be in court asking for a finding of factual innocence. Photo: JSmith/iStock.

TORRANCE — Charles Samuel Couch was falsely accused of lewd conduct by Manhattan Beach police in a botched undercover sting operation, and it took about two years for the city and police department to finally admit it.

In addition, Police Chief Eve Irvine signed paperwork in 2014 that confirmed Couch’s factual innocence.

RELATED: 5-year ordeal for man falsely accused of lewd conduct in Manhattan Beach undercover sting operation

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On Friday, Couch’s attorney, Bruce Nickerson, will ask Judge Amy Carter to grant a motion of factual innocence related to the bungled 2012 incident.

Nickerson made the same motion at the Torrance Courthouse on July 7, but Deputy District Attorney Walter Quinteros-Perello argued against it.

Carter was perplexed.

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“The evidence is pretty compelling,” Carter told Quinteros-Perello, who persisted in his argument.

Carter agreed to let Quinteros-Perello argue his point and rescheduled the hearing to Friday.

“The burden of proof has shifted to the prosecutor to show that a crime has been committed,” Carter said.

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RELATED: Bruce Nickerson has spent decades defending men falsely accused of lewd conduct

It’s unclear why the district attorney’s office wants to squash the find of factual innocence. Neither Quinteros-Perello nor Irene Wakabayashi, the head deputy in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s Torrance office, could not be reached for comment.

Nickerson was angry that five years later, the ordeal still isn’t closed.

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“The police have signed all necessary documents saying we agree there should be a finding of factual innocence,” Nickerson said.

“The only thing remaining to right this wrong — to give this man back what he once had — is a factual finding of innocence,” Nickerson said. “This will restore to him his good name forever.”

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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