OC Sheriff's Deputy Gets Probation for Pepper Spraying Teen's Pizza During Traffic Stop

"When this victim went home and ate the pizza, his mouth started burning," an OCDA spokeswoman said

By Willian Avila
|  Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014  |  Updated 6:33 PM PDT
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An Orange County sheriff's deputy was sentenced to a year of probation and 100 hours of community service for surreptitiously pepper spraying a teenager's pizza during a traffic stop, prosecutors said.

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Juan Tavera, 30, was convicted and sentenced last Friday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of assault or battery by a public officer, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

An Orange County sheriff's spokesman said Tavera was also "terminated" in December.

Prosecutors said the incident took place in September of 2012, when Tavera was assisting another deputy who had stopped the 19-year-old driver for a traffic infraction in Laguna Hills.

"Upon arriving, the defendant found a pizza box on the backseat of the victim's car and pepper sprayed the pizza without the victim's knowledge," prosecutors said.

The teen, who was not identified, went home and shared the pizza with four friends, causing all of them to feel sick after ingesting the pepper spray, prosecutors said.

"When this victim went home and ate the pizza, his mouth started burning," said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney's Office. "Based on that, he contacted the Orange County Sheriff's Department and they investigated it and they were able to determine that the deputy had in fact pepper sprayed this pizza."

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Tavera, who was a six-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff's Department at the time, was placed on paid administrative leave.

Emami said it was unclear why Tavera pepper sprayed the pizza.

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