RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Cal. — Adult performer Mercedes Carrera alleges she has been “left alone with no bail, unable to defend myself” in San Bernardino County’s West Valley Detention Center “without proper legal counsel and without being able to contact my daughter.”
Almost two months ago, Carrera’s home was raided by Rancho Cucamonga police and she and her current husband, video engineer Jason Whitney, were charged with sexual abuse of a “child 10 years old or younger,” and possession of drugs and weapons.
XBIZ spoke exclusively with Carrera at the West Valley Detention Center. The interview was conducted without privacy in a public room at the county facility, where Carrera could be seen behind a bulletproof glass speaking to us via a phone device that shuts off automatically without warning.
Carrera appeared strong at first, but broke down repeatedly during the interview whenever the subject of the custody battle with her former partner, her daughter’s father, would come up. Carrera insists, as she communicated to XBIZ the week after her arrest (the last time she was allowed to make a statement about her innocence), that her estranged former partner fabricated the claims that resulted in her arrest.
She categorically denies the extremely disturbing charges that the DA filed after reviewing the Rancho Cucamonga Police report.
Carrera’s version of what happened on the evening of February 1, 2019 tells of a harrowing, life-changing experience. What she describes is the worst fear of the many sex-workers who are also parents.
“I was at home, got a text from my ex saying that he was downstairs and was bringing my daughter back after she had been with him. I ran down to get her and several cops busted into my house screaming. My life has been a nightmare ever since that moment.”
“At first we thought it might have something to do with a fight I was having with some porn people on Twitter. We were completely blindsided. We had no idea what they were talking about. They kept asking us about my daughter and videos. I have had many people over to this house, people in the industry, and everyone can tell you that I always kept my porn life completely separate from my daughter."
“They took all our hard drives and all that was there were scenes we had shot for my sites. I don’t even have any other kind of porn. They kept talking about the video-making equipment. My husband is a professional video engineer. That’s what he does and anyone could have told them that.”
Carrera also questions the timing of the arrest. “They came in on Friday evening because they knew that they could throw us here for the weekend without charges or anything. That first day [after the arrest] they did not feed me. I had to beg for food and they kept checking my blood pressure and saying ‘Nah, you’re fine.’ They separated me from my husband and I haven’t seen him ever since. He’s here in this facility and I can write to him and he to me, but they won’t let me see him.”
“There are people here who are being held for four years or more without a sentence.” According to what Carrera was told by other inmates, “the DAs are constantly coming in and telling people to plead guilty to the lesser charge even if they’re innocent so they can be ‘sent upstate’ [to state prison] for a couple of years and ‘be done with it.’”
The Green People and The Orange People
When Carrera arrived at Rancho Cucamonga’s West Valley Detention Center, she was issued a dark green uniform, which she was wearing when XBIZ interviewed her.
“There are the orange people, like ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ and then there are a few green people like me. Inside, they say the green people are the worst. The ‘baby-killers’ they call us.”
For the last two months, Carrera has been in her cell for 21 hours every day. She only gets three hours every day to spend outside, but even that is a source of anxiety. “The guards hate the green uniform people and they call us all kinds of names. Other inmates want to hurt us.”
What upsets Carrera the most, bringing her to tears, is that she says she had a custody hearing at family court scheduled for a few weeks after she was arrested. She insists she requested to be transported to the hearing and that that was something that inmates are allowed to do. Carrera claims her request was denied and at the hearing she was considered a no-show, therefore losing all contact with her child.
“That’s what hurts the most,” Carrera said during the interview, crying. “I try to keep it together there,” she said, pointing behind her to the imposing door that led to the cells. “But here I break down. They won’t let me contact my daughter. They won’t tell me where she is. They gave her to a man who lives by himself in the middle of nowhere and they haven’t given me a chance to fight for her. I know other people here are allowed to go to their custody hearings.”
“I’m alone and nobody tells me anything — Wilkins, the public defender they assigned to me, has never come to see me in jail. Not once in two months. I only met him at my first hearing. Nobody has even explained the charges against me.”
“I would like to retain my own attorney, but I cannot do that without liquidating my assets, and they took several weeks to get my power of attorney to me and back to someone outside so they can start selling off my property. In the meantime, I’ve spent two months suffering here and this public defender won’t even meet me.”
XBIZ confirms how difficult it is for Carrera to get her story out. This conversation was reconstructed from notes taken immediately after the interview, in the West Valley Detention Center parking lot. Visitors are only allowed to carry one car key and a driver’s license into the visiting room. Writing implements are forbidden in all of the facility’s grounds, though the rule is arbitrarily enforced in the lobby.
“Officially, I only know three facts about my case,” Carrera said through the bulletproof glass before her visitor room phone automatically shut off and she walked back to her cell. “I am being held here without bail. My husband, who I love, is somewhere in here but I can’t see him. My next hearing is supposed to be April 4.”
“That’s all I know. How am I supposed to defend myself and get my daughter back?”
A Case Plagued by Inaccuracies From the Start
The case against Mercedes Carrera and her current husband has been plagued by inaccuracies and unusual proceedings from its very start.
The world learned about the raid four days after it happened. On February 5, the Rancho Cucamonga office of the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department, which is led by John McMahon, issued a press release informing the public of the raid.
The press release was written by Rancho Cucamonga PD’s Sheriff's Services Specialist Rhonda Dixon, who edited an original report by Detective Donald Patton, who was one of the two officers in charge of the raid. XBIZ spoke with Dixon, who referred to Patton as the department’s “specialist in these types of cases” and the head of the “Sex Crimes Unit.”
The Carreras-Whitney raid is one of several sensational, well-publicized sex-related arrests that Patton has already handled since joining the Rancho Cucamonga PD in mid-2018.
XBIZ repeatedly attempted to reach Detective Patton for comments regarding this story.
According to the press release, deputies were “notified of sexual acts against a minor female victim, which occurred in the city of Rancho Cucamonga” on Thursday, January 31. After a remarkably swift investigation that presumably took less than 24 hours, unidentified detectives conducted “an extensive interview” with the alleged victim, where they “learned she was sexually abused several times by [Mercedes Carrera] and Jason Whitney."
(The police and court system used Carrera’s legal name. We are choosing to respect her privacy wishes and refer to her by her stage name.)
The police report nowhere specifies that the alleged victim is Carrera’s daughter, or whether, as Carrera claims, she has had full custody of her since birth, and is currently in a bitter custody battle with her daughter’s father. Also, according to Carrera, she and the father were never married and their visitation arrangement, reached amiably and informally between them because they both travel for work, was unproblematic until a few months ago.
According to the press release, “the sexual abuse consisted of inappropriate touching, oral copulation, and digital penetration, which occurred over four months.”
This account is inconsistent with the publicly available charges drawn up by the San Bernardino DA office. XBIZ spoke with Bobbie Mann, Supervising Deputy DA at the Rancho Cucamonga office. Mann said that currently the DA in charge is Brianne (Brie) Durose, who has experience prosecuting sexual abuse cases. Mann could not confirm whether Durose had been the DA who filed the original charges.
The State’s complaint against Carrera and Whitney was filed on February 5 and Carrera was arraigned a day later. It contains nine charges: eight related to sexual abuse, and one weapons and drug charge.
The eight charges of sexual abuse all allege that the incidents happened “on or about July 6, 2017 through January 31, 2019.”
This is inconsistent with the police press release, which mentions a period of “four months” without stating when.
The other major inconsistency between the press release and the charges is the exact nature of the abuse. Seven of the charges against Carrera (and also Whitney) are for “oral copulation or sexual penetration,” which is what the press release alleges.
The first charge against both of them, the most serious of the charges, however is for “sexual intercourse or sodomy,” which does not appear to be one of the claims the police made.
"A Bedroom Setup"
Carrera claims that she has not been allowed to review the charges or the alleged dates outside of court in the last two months.
The Rancho Cucamonga Police press release states that “through investigation, it was determined that [Carrera] was an actress who frequently performed in pornographic videos. It was determined that Whitney worked as a producer and director of various types of pornographic movies, web shows, and award shows in the adult film industry.”
This is the first implication that Carrera’s job had anything to do with the allegation, an insinuation that is repeated later when the police points out that after the raid, detectives “learned the two suspects had their bedroom set up where they could film and record various pornographic videos or web shows.”
Moreover, Carrera’s husband is mostly known as a video engineer for sporting events, not adult content. His social media presence is full of photographs of advanced video equipment and stories about his work for ESPN and other major sports networks.
As far as XBIZ can ascertain, Whitney’s only involvement in the adult industry, under the pseudonym “Daemon Cins,” is related to the production of indie clips and streams with his wife. He does not appear to have worked in professional adult productions or “award shows in the adult film industry,” as the police alleges.
Neither the police account, nor the DA’s charges offer any evidence that Carrera’s job, Whitney’s video work, or the content they produced is in any way related to the crimes alleged.
“On Friday, February 1, 2019,” the police press release continues, “detectives served a search warrant at their residence and contacted [Mercedes Carrera] and Jason Whitney in the home. A search of the residence was conducted, and detectives located a large amount of evidence corroborating the victim’s statement. Additionally, detectives located methamphetamine and two loaded handguns in the home."
This account contradicts Carrera’s statement to XBIZ, which has the police using her daughter’s father as part of a sting operation that included “barging” into her house. It is unclear from both accounts how the search warrant was served, or if weapons were used during the raid.
Neither the police nor the DA have released any statements about the “large amount of evidence” they gathered at Carrera’s home.
The drugs-and-guns charge, the ninth charge for both Carrera and Whitney, alleges that both of them committed the felony of “unlawfully [possessing] Methamphetamine while armed with a loaded, operable firearm, to wit: Semi-automatic Firearm.”
The date of the drugs-and-guns charge is “on or about January 31, 2019,” that is the day before the raid that supposedly found these items.
San Bernardino DA Bobbie Mann could not speak specifically about this case, but said that she “did not know” why the reviewing DA had decided to backdate that charge to before the evidence was found.
Another curious point about the police press release is that, although it is dated February 5, it says that “both suspects were denied bail and remain in custody.” The arraignment and bail hearing was on February 6, and Carrera mentioned that, though detectives had mentioned “a million-dollar or two-million-dollar bail” during interrogation, she was surprised that the judge had decided to deny bail a day after the police press release had seemingly predicted it.
The charges mention that both Carrera and Whitney have “a prior serious or violent felony conviction,” but XBIZ has not been able to corroborate this, or what the nature of that conviction was.
The last section of the police press release is perhaps the most problematic: “detectives believe there may be additional victims and are releasing the booking photos of each suspect.”
Nothing in the charges (or according to Carrera, anything during the interrogation) referred to anyone other than a single alleged victim, whom Carrera identifies as her own daughter. It is unclear why the detectives “believe there may be additional victims.”
XBIZ has repeatedly tried to reach Detective Patton to clarify these discrepancies, but he has not responded to our messages.
The Wrong Producer
The Rancho Cucamonga press release, plus the deeply unflattering mug shots of Carrera and Whitney taken at their moment of highest anxiety and confusion, immediately caught the attention of mainstream press.
At 11:26 a.m. on the morning of February 6, CBS Los Angeles tweeted “SEXUAL ABUSE ARREST: [legal name], better known as the porn actress Mercedes Carrera, and producer Jason Whitney, aka Jay Allan, face charges of sexually abusing a young girl in Rancho Cucamonga.”
Immediately, several members of the adult industry, pointed out that “Jay Allan,” is a well-known porn photographer and he is not Jason Whitney.
Jay Allan himself tweeted “CBS Please delete this tweet with my name attached. This is incorrect info. I have nothing to do with these people. Apparently his stage name is Daemon Cins.”
CBS Los Angeles didn’t attach a correction until 24 hours later. Their tweet misidentifying Allan and accusing him of this heinous offense is still up as of today.
CBS’ mistake was not random: Rancho Cucamonga Police had indeed identified Jason Whitney as “AKA Jay Allan,” in the original press release. The police did not update their information until they were contacted by multiple people via social media pointing out their liability for slandering the wrong person.
On February 7, they updated the press release. “Through further investigation,” they wrote, “detectives have learned that Jason Whitney uses the name ‘Jay Allan’ on a social media platform. However, he is better known in the adult film industry as ‘Daemon Cins.’”
XBIZ has reviewed several of Whitney’s social media accounts and cannot find any instance of him impersonating well-known photographer Jay Allan.
While Carrera and Whitney remained in jail with no internet access or meaningful visits from their State-appointed lawyers, the mainstream press started spreading the news about their arrest, taking their cues from the supposedly authoritative police report.
The report, with its insinuations about “additional victims” and “bedroom set ups” where they could “film and record various pornographic video and web shows,” caught the imagination of both the professionally prurient and many in the adult entertainment community who had found Carrera’s outspokenness, attitude and regular social media feuds and tirades strident and often offensive.
The mainstream press was also tantalized by a porn figure they had heard about. Carrera had made herself into something of a pin-up girl for the GamerGate controversy, gaining a name as a rare “anti-Feminist porn star.” Carrera’s politics — she has defined herself as a “bleeding-heart Libertarian — and her constant shout-outs to the military and, ironically given her current situation, law enforcement, made her a darling of the right-leaning internet crowd. Her downfall was vocally celebrated online by the many enemies she had made through endless exposure during GamerGate and beyond.
The Strange Case of the Missing San Bernardino County Public Defender
Anyone familiar with police procedure or the legal system (or anyone who has watched Netflix’s “Making A Murderer”) knows that it is extremely difficult to defend yourself in court and it is virtually impossible if you don’t have access to a competent lawyer.
On February 5, after four traumatic days in virtual isolation, Carrera learned that her case had been assigned to Dennis Wilkins, a veteran lawyer with the San Bernardino County Public Defender Office. Wilkins has been described by a source familiar with the Rancho Cucamonga courthouse as someone “who used to be a good lawyer until not long ago, but then something happened and he seems disillusioned by the whole thing.”
From 2003 to 2014, Wilkins used to be associated with a legal blog called “Public Defender Dude,” where he posted his musings about how difficult it was to defend the poor in the law-and-order-obsessed San Bernardino County.
“Why post? Why write? How to keep it up? How to stay relevant?,” is one of the last entries on the blog, before it was abandoned in 2014.
XBIZ left a message for Wilkins asking for his comments on the case. This was a few days before we met Carrera in jail and she mentioned that she had only seen Wilkins in court and he had never come to the detention center to review her case and options.
Wilkins did not return our message, but the next day he answered his private line. He was not aware of “the Mercedes Carrera case,” but actually chuckled when we mentioned her legal name and said “Oh, you’re press? I’m not telling you anything about that.”
After an awkward silence he said “Do you have anything to tell me about that?”
XBIZ laid out the discrepancies of the dates of the alleged abuses. Wilkins chuckled again and then said, “You can write this: My name is Dennis Wilkins and I’m the public defender assigned to the case. I have no other comment. Goodbye.”
Wilkins then hung up on XBIZ. A later attempt to see him in his office, a floor above the District Attorney’s office, was unsuccessful.
XBIZ tried to get in touch with several people at the San Bernardino County Public Defender’s Office, but they do not have a Public Information Officer, and repeated messages to San Bernardino Public Defender Christopher Gardner and his secretary have been unanswered.
A Bitter Custody Battle
According to Carrera, the accusations and the arrest are connected to the ongoing custody battle with her daughter’s father.
During the jailhouse interview, Carrera offered a lot of information about the possible connection to XBIZ, who will handle it with confidentiality to protect the identity of the minor.
According to Carrera, the girl’s father is a 48-year-old photographer, with whom she had a tumultuous relationship a decade ago. “I was 24,” she said. “I had only known him for a short while. I got pregnant and decided to keep her.” She says that the photographer, who is fairly well-known in a non-adult niche market, grew up in “a controlling religious cult and idolized his father,” but had lapsed during the time she knew him.
“When we were together, he was the one that wanted to get in porn. I shot videos with him,” Carrera alleges.
After their breakup, Carrera said, she had custody of their daughter. “We never married, and I’m the mother. But I didn’t want her to grow up without a father so we were civil for many, many years.” Carrera said that they were both traveling a lot for work, so it made more sense to have their daughter stay with whomever was in town and they made the arrangements informally.
Carrera insisted that she would have stayed in Los Angeles County if not for the fact that the photographer chooses to live “in complete isolation” in a hillside property that overlooks the San Bernardino area.
The photographer’s father passed away last year and, Carrera noted, “he’s gone back to being super-religious. He never had an issue with what I do, but four months ago there was a big blow-out when he came over and had an argument with my husband. My husband got really angry and told him to ‘watch it,’ because since we were never married, he could see my daughter only because I was being nice to him.”
Carrera contends that the charges and allegations against her cannot be separated from this bitter custody battle.
“Child Protective Services is only going after me because of what I do for a living. Everyone in here and the few friends who have visited agree that this would have never been handled like this in L.A. County.”
“I’ve worked in cases with people who are accused of these kinds of sexual contact with children,” said a source who is familiar with the case, but asked not to be identified. “Pedophiles who do what [Carrera] has been charged with are not high-functioning individuals. They’re broken people who can’t talk about the children in question for more than a few minutes without saying something off. Mercedes sounds exactly like a mother who’s grieving about being separated from her daughter.”
XBIZ attempted to reach the Rancho Cucamonga office of San Bernardino County Children and Family Services but we were told no information could be made public. We were referred to C. L. Lopez, Human Services Communication Officer at their central location, who wrote down our questions about who the case officer was and how unusual it was that Carrera, who has not been convicted of anything and is awaiting trial, was not transported to her scheduled custody hearing, resulting, according to her, in her loss of custody and a restraining order against trying to contact her daughter.
We have not received a response as of today.
The San Bernardino Family Court phone line did not offer any options to talk to a public information officer and played endless Muzak while failing to connect us to an operator.
A Law-Enforcement Obsessed Community vs. The Men-in-Uniform Loving Porn Star
The other factor in this case is San Bernardino County itself, which has often been referred to as “a Red State within California,” including by Carrera during our interview.
It would be impossible to overstate the obsession the county, and Rancho Cucamonga in particular, has with law enforcement, the military, flags, veterans and uniforms. Rancho Cucamonga might only be 70 miles east of Porn Valley, and 45 from Downtown Los Angeles, but it is actually a million miles in terms of atmosphere and attitude.
The Foothills city resembles much more aspirational middle-class Orange County enclaves like Irvine than anything in diverse Los Angeles. Uniformity is a virtue in this place, from endless strip malls to the jail itself, all painted in that instantly recognizable but also indefinible ochre/tan/dun/orangey yellow color of outlet malls around the country.
The Rancho Cucamonga Police Department has brochures (“Volunteers Wanted”) inviting civilians to get deputized as “Citizen Volunteers” if they’re at least 18, have a high-school or G.E.D. diploma and interested in duties like “citizen on patrol,” “crime prevention” and “neighborhood watch.”
As XBIZ made one last attempt to meet up with Detective Patton, a group of young boys, definitely of high school age, approached the station wearing miniature versions of the police uniform and speaking in the characteristic curt and intimidatingly “official” jargon of grown police officers.
These crew-cut-sporting teens, the next generation of Rancho’s finest, were members of Rancho’s Explorer Scout Unit (requirements: “Be at least 14 years old and in 9th grade, and not older than 21, must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, no serious arrests or convictions, successful completion of a background investigation and oral interview, Must complete the Basic Explorer. Academy within one (1) year of joining the Post"), carried small batons and were in the process of receiving “100 hours of intense training” including “Chain of Command, Laws of Arrest, Search and Seizure, Weaponless Defense, Firearms Safety, Handcuffing Technique and CPR/1st Aid.”
Across the corporate-park-looking security compound, past an impressive fountain emblazoned with the words “Foothill Communities Law and Justice,” stood the courthouse where the DA that’s charging Carrera, the public defender who won’t meet up with her and the judge who will ultimately decide if her case moves forward and if she can get bail, all work together.
In the lobby of the courthouse, there’s a hyperrealistic statue of a police officer holding a dying fellow officer on the ground, his regulation firearm next to his body. It's called "Officer Down."
XBIZ was warned to stop taking pictures of it.
“The judge doesn’t like it when people do that,” said the guard.
Gustavo Turner is the News Editor for XBIZ. Twitter: @GustavoXBIZ
Top photo: Mercedes Carrera at the 2016 XBIZ Awards (l). The West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, March 2019. Photos by Gustavo Turner.