VISTA, Calif. (CBS 8) – Two Imperial Beach border patrol agents pleaded not guilty in Vista court Friday to a string of misdemeanor charges for allegedly performing lewd acts in public.
Agents Kallie Helwig, 25, and Gerald Torello, 35, were off duty at the time the alleged incident on May 27 during the Cirque du Soleil show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The five-count complaint says two young children witnessed the agents engaging in oral copulation in the audience while "sitting immediately in front of defendants."
When a woman in the audience reported the behavior to security, the female agent attacked the woman after the show, according to court records obtained by News 8.
Photographs show injuries to the face of the woman who claimed Agent Helwig, "…just turned around and socked me right on my left eye. She got me with a punch to the right jaw and left jaw. I had a black eye and a knot in my forehead."
Both agents are charged lewd acts, annoying a minor and battery. The male agent, Torello, is also charged with making a criminal threat.
The complaint reads, "After witness asked defendant (Torello) to stop the lewd conduct during the show, defendant stated, ‘If you ever talk to [us] like that again, I will kill you.'"
Attorney Knut Johnson represents Helwig, the female agent.
"She may have had her head on his lap but the police reports say there was no evidence of a lewd act," said Johnson. "I think publicity has blown up in this case because there are allegations of sex and everybody finds that interesting. But it never happened. There was no lewd behavior at all."
The woman in the audience said she witnessed the behavior, but admitted she did not see actual sexual contact.
"She had her head in his lap. It looked like her head and her hand where moving up and down and it looked like she was giving him oral sex in public," said the woman, who did not want to be identified.
As for the alleged battery, defense attorney Johnson said, "There was an argument and a fight and that's going to play out in court."
The alleged victim tells News 8 she is still recovering from her injuries and is planning a lawsuit against the Border Patrol agents involved, Cirque du Soleil security, and possibly the operators of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Torello's attorney, Richard Muir of Vista, said his client denies the allegations and reiterated the defense position that no sex act took place.
The agents remain on paid administrative leave from their jobs at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol station.
In June, U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor Steven Pitts issued the following statement about the incident:
"All CBP employees are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner while on or off duty. CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. CBP takes every allegation of misconduct seriously and each allegation is investigated."
The agents face one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, if convicted. The next hearing in the case is set for Aug. 10 in the Vista courthouse.