10 More Rampart Cases Voided

Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Courts: All but two individuals were out on probation or parole.

By SCOTT GLOVER and MATT LAIT, Times Staff Writers

A judge on Tuesday overturned the convictions of 10 people who were allegedly framed by officers from the LAPD’s Rampart Division, bringing the number of cases that have been thrown out in the wake of an ongoing corruption investigation to 23.
The convictions were vacated after former officer-turned-informant Rafael Perez told authorities that he and his then-partner Nino Durden falsified arrest reports, planted evidence and perjured themselves in court.
“We believe these convictions were wrongfully obtained,” Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti said at a news conference before the afternoon court session. “They were wrongfully punished for crimes they did not commit.”
All but two of the victims had served their sentences and were on parole or probation when their convictions were overturned by Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler. The judge ordered the two others released from custody immediately.
Octavio P. Davalos, who authorities now believe was falsely convicted on a drug charge, was the only one in court to see his name cleared. Fidler, taking note of his presence at the defense table, peered down from the bench and addressed him in a conciliatory tone.
“The court’s apologies, Mr. Davalos, for what happened to you,” the judge said.
“I was never guilty of nothing,” said Davalos, 41, an upholstery worker who served 91 days in jail. He said he only agreed to a plea bargain because he was threatened with eight to 16 years in prison.
Since September, there have been 22 convictions overturned and one case dismissed as a result of the corruption probe. District attorney’s officials contend, however, that only 21 convictions have been overturned because a man involved in one of the cases was killed in a gang-related shooting before the court action took place. Additionally, Garcetti’s office does not know how many cases were dismissed between Perez’s arrest for drug theft in August 1998 and the time he entered into a plea deal and began cooperating with authorities this fall.
To date, the investigation has uncovered evidence of unjustified police shootings, beatings, drug dealing, witness intimidation, planting of evidence, false arrest and perjury. Twenty LAPD officers have been relieved of duty, quit or were fired in connection with the probe.
Garcetti, who characterizes the Rampart probe as the most important case his office has ever handled, said he anticipates adding more prosecutors to his task force, which already has seven lawyers.
“This case is not confined to Rampart,” he said. “We will go wherever the evidence leads us. If it takes us to other divisions, other parts of LAPD, we are prepared to do it.”
Garcetti, however, refused to say whether the investigation already has moved beyond Rampart.
The county’s top prosecutor said the first priority of his office is to get innocent people out of prison. Garcetti added that as many as three dozen cases are under review and may be overturned because they were tainted by false testimony and the planting of evidence.
Garcetti said that his office is interested in prosecuting dirty cops as quickly as possible but that much more investigation needs to be done. He indicated that the cases the LAPD has submitted against two current and one former officer are not ready to be filed.
“We will file those cases as quickly as we can,” Garcetti said. “I understand the frustration the LAPD has. . . . But we’re the ones who have the ethical responsibility to go and file cases. We want successful prosecutions. We don’t want simply some dressing, [to say] ‘Oh, we’ve filed criminal charges,’ and then ultimately those cases are dismissed or lost. We don’t want that.”
In addition to Davalos’ drug conviction, the following convictions were overturned by Fidler on Tuesday:
A 1997 conviction stemming from a weapons case against Hugo Madrid. Perez now says that he and Durden planted a weapon on Madrid, 26. Madrid is in custody on a parole violation related to that bogus arrest. He was ordered released immediately.
A 1997 drug conviction against Manuel Guardado, 26. Perez now alleges that he and Durden planted the drugs, according to court papers.
The 1997 drug convictions of Blanca Sahagun, 31, and Carlos Antonio Carranza, 27. According to court papers, Perez now admits that “significant portions of the arrest report were fabricated,” and the district attorney’s office no longer has confidence in the case.
The 1997 drug conviction of Juan Carlos Suares, 24. Perez now says that the drugs were planted on Suares.
The 1997 drug conviction of Margo Leticia Lopez, 56, and weapons conviction of Luis Manuel Flores, 26. According to court documents, Perez and Durden fabricated facts in their arrest report and conducted an illegal search.
The 1997 weapons conviction of Paul Anise Thompson, 34. In this case, prosecutors joined a petition filed by Thompson from prison, where he was serving a six-year sentence.
The 1997 firearms possession conviction of Jose Armando Lara, 24. Perez says the conviction was unjustified.

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