Two Imperial Beach-based Border Patrol agents were placed on administrative leave Wednesday as prosecutors weighed whether to charge them in connection with a scuffle that broke out at the Del Mar Fairgrounds after the pair allegedly engaged in lewd, drunken behavior while off duty.
Deputies took Kallie Helwig, 24, and Gerald Torello, 35, into custody after responding to a report of a disturbance at the fairgrounds on the afternoon of May 27, sheriff's Lt. Kenn Nelson said.
A woman who had been sitting near the federal agents during a Cirque du Soleil performance alleged that she was attacked by Helwig after confronting her about what seemed to be sexual behavior between the two agents in the stands, according to Nelson.
The sheriff's personnel told the accuser, who appeared to have suffered minor cuts and bruises to her face and head, that she would have to conduct a citizen's arrest if she wanted to pursue charges against Helwig, and the woman did so, Nelson said. Deputies arrested Torello on suspicion of being drunk in public.
The purported victim, whose name was not released, and other people who had been at the show described seeing Helwig with her head and hands in Torello's lap, seemingly performing oral sex. When witnesses asked them to stop what they were doing, they refused, and only ceased when confronted by venue security personnel, according to Nelson.
The altercation between the two women erupted after the show, near an exit in the tent where the circus-style troupe had performed.
"Most of the witnesses said Helwig was the aggressor," Nelson said.
Deputies brought the agents to the sheriff's Encinitas station. After being held for several hours and questioned, Helwig and Torello were given misdemeanor citations for battery and public drunkenness, respectively, and released on their own recognizance.
Detectives have forwarded the case to county prosecutors, who were still reviewing the evidence this week, said Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office.
Since none of the witnesses to the fairgrounds incident could say they definitely witnessed sex acts on the part of the agents, sheriff's officials did not recommend any type of public indecency charges against them, Nelson said.
Helwig and Torello, each of whom has been employed by the Border Patrol for about four years, have been relegated to desk duty pending resolution of the possible criminal cases against them, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
In a prepared statement, the federal organization asserted that all its employees "are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner while on or off duty. CBP takes every allegation of misconduct seriously and fully cooperates in the investigation of such allegations."
- City News Service