LAPD Chief Calls for Dismissal of All Rampart Cases

Thursday, January 27, 2000

Corruption: Parks urges prosecutors to proceed as quickly as possible for 99 victims identified so far. He also seeks charges against two officers and a former officer.

By MATT LAIT and SCOTT GLOVER, Times Staff Writers

Significantly broadening the scope of the Rampart corruption scandal, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks disclosed Wednesday that 99 people are believed to have been framed by disgraced ex-officer-turned-informant Rafael Perez and his former partners.
Parks, in his most detailed update on the scandal since it broke in September, also called upon Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti to move forward as quickly as possible to dismiss cases “en masse” instead of prolonging the investigation and delaying “the obvious.” He said at least three wrongly convicted people remain behind bars. Others have either served their time, been paroled or been placed on probation, officials said.
LAPD investigators have traveled across the country and to Guatemala and El Salvador in efforts to corroborate Perez’s admissions and allegations, Parks said. So far, detectives have found and interviewed 52 apparent victims.
“The department feels that the criminal cases involving these 52 defendants have been severely tainted and cannot be salvaged,” Parks said at a hastily arranged news conference at the LAPD’s downtown headquarters. “I believe at this time it is in the best interest of the city to dispose of these charges . . . en masse, versus a case-by-case process.”
Parks also publicly pressed Garcetti’s office to file criminal charges against two current officers and one former LAPD officer linked to the Rampart corruption. District attorney’s officials say that such charges are premature and that further investigation is needed.
Immediately after the chief’s news conference, district attorney officials held their own news conference, reaffirming their commitment to aggressively investigate the corruption, free anyone wrongly convicted, and prosecute officers who abused their authority.
Victoria Pipkin, a spokeswoman for Garcetti, said prosecutors may seek to overturn yet another batch of convictions as soon as next week. So far, 23 cases have been thrown out as a result of the investigation. Those cases are among the ones Parks identified Wednesday night.
Privately, the chief’s statements were construed by some district attorney officials as an attempt to minimize and put a quick end to the ongoing scandal, which has badly tainted the department’s image.
“He wants this thing gone,” said one district attorney official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There’s a lot more investigation that needs to be done, but he doesn’t want to hear it. He just wants this thing over with.”
The man at the center of the LAPD’s worst corruption case in 60 years is Perez, a 32-year-old former Marine. He is working with authorities in hopes of getting a lighter sentence for stealing eight pounds of cocaine from LAPD facilities while he worked as an officer at the Rampart station.
As part of his plea deal, Perez told authorities that he and his onetime partner, Nino Durden, shot an unarmed gang member, planted a gun on him and then testified in court that he attacked them. Javier Francisco Ovando, who was paralyzed in the shooting, has since been released from prison and has filed a lawsuit against the city.
The investigation has uncovered evidence of unjustified shootings, beatings, drug dealing, false arrests, witness intimidation, perjury and planting of evidence. To date, 20 officers have resigned or been relieved of duty, suspended without pay or fired in connection with the scandal.
At his news conference, Parks said Perez has identified 57 cases, involving 99 defendants, in which he and his former partners–particularly Durden–allegedly fabricated evidence and perjured themselves. Parks said the department has not been able to interview all of the people who were allegedly framed by Perez and his partners. He said at least one victim has died, others have refused to be interviewed, some have been deported, and a couple have not been located.
The cases at issue occurred between 1995 and 1998, Parks said. Most of Perez’s victims were convicted on false drug or weapons charges, he added.
One reporter asked the chief how investigators could believe Perez, an admitted thief and perjurer. Parks said detectives don’t take the former officer at his word.
“We go out in the field and we interview witnesses and we interview suspects without their [knowing] what Perez has told us,” he said. “We use that and other evidence to validate” Perez’s claims.
The number of tainted cases may grow as the LAPD corruption investigation turns to other officers whom Perez has implicated in crimes or misconduct.
While Parks said he is troubled by the revelations, he praised the department’s task force for aggressively pursuing alleged wrongdoing and rooting out bad officers.
“The one positive light is the work effort of those officers on this task force,” Parks said, adding that detectives tirelessly worked to “clear the names of suspects who were convicted of crimes who should not have been.”
That task force, he added, is now 46 officers strong. Detectives have conducted more than 300 interviews with defendants and witnesses.
Those detectives have also presented prosecutors with cases against Officers Durden and Michael Buchanan and former Officer Brian Hewitt.
Sources close to the investigation, however, said it could be weeks or even months before criminal charges might be filed.

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