Most of Perez’s Allegations Are Confirmed, Panel Told

Rampart: Testimony in another officer’s hearing says 70%-80% of informant’s charges have been corroborated.

By SCOTT GLOVER, MATT LAIT, Times Staff Writers


Investigators on the Los Angeles Police Department’s corruption task force have corroborated 70% to 80% of the allegations of police abuse leveled by former police officer Rafael Perez, according to testimony at a disciplinary hearing Monday.
Lt. Emmanuel Hernandez, who has been working on the corruption task force since before Perez began cooperating with authorities last September, testified that investigators do not believe that Perez has intentionally lied about any case, police officials said. Although authorities say they have found Perez to be wrong about some important details, they attribute those statements to failed memory, not deliberate deception.
Hernandez’s testimony came during an internal LAPD disciplinary hearing for Officer Humberto Tovar, who was found guilty of five counts of police misconduct arising from a 1996 drug arrest in which the suspect allegedly was framed. Tovar faces possible termination. A recommendation on his punishment is expected Wednesday.
Hernandez’s statements at the hearing represent the broadest endorsement to date of Perez’s account and demonstrate the degree to which the LAPD has sought to verify his testimony about alleged police misconduct. Perez, a former anti-gang officer now serving time in jail, stands at the center of the web of scandal known as the Rampart case, making his credibility a potentially key issue in any disciplinary hearings and criminal prosecutions that arise from the corruption probe.
Many of Perez’s former colleagues accuse him of lying. Police would not provide details Monday about how investigators have corroborated Perez’s version of events. Detectives continue to try to corroborate the remainder of Perez’s information, police said.
Perez, who was convicted of stealing eight pounds of cocaine from LAPD facilities, agreed to cooperate with authorities in exchange for a lighter prison sentence.
“This is clear evidence that my client has been honest and forthright ever since he accepted his [plea bargain] deal,” said Winston Kevin McKesson, Perez’s attorney.
Although investigators say Perez’s information has been largely corroborated, the ex-officer apparently has erred in several cases in which he has implicated colleagues in misconduct. In one case, Perez accused an officer of attending an on-duty party at which officers drank alcohol. That case fell apart, however, when the officer produced documents and photographs refuting Perez’s account and showing that he was at Disneyland at the time he supposedly was attending the party.
Attorney Richard Macias, who represents Tovar, continued to seize on Perez’s lack of credibility after the hearing in which Tovar was found guilty.
“What most disappointed us is that Officer Tovar, who has not been charged with any crimes and who has not lied in court, was not believed by the board, and Perez, who has admitted perjuring himself more than 100 times, was,” Macias said.
Tovar was found guilty of five of seven counts against him stemming from the March 23, 1996, arrest of Toby Semick.
Semick was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana. But Perez has since told task force investigators that he planted drugs on Semick after the suspect threw a gun into the sewer. Tovar was Perez’s partner at the time.
“I told him [Semick] . . . OK, you got away with the gun. But you’re still going,” Perez said during an Oct. 15, 1999, interview with investigators, transcripts of which have been obtained by The Times.
Perez told detectives that, though he wrote the arrest report, Tovar was aware that Semick was being framed.
“I made it very obvious to him that, you know, we’re going to do him for something,” Perez said. “We just couldn’t figure out what. Then, later on, after we had gotten back to our car . . . I told him [Tovar] we were gonna plant marijuana on him.”
In the October interview, given under oath, Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Rosenthal asked Perez where the marijuana came from.
“I believe I had that in my possession already,” Perez said.
Perez testified to this version of events at Tovar’s so-called Board of Right hearing, said McKesson. Semick also testified at the board hearing that he was framed. In his defense, Tovar testified that the scenario described in the arrest report was true to the best of his knowledge, said Macias, his attorney.
“At the time, there was no doubt in his mind that this was a legitimate arrest,” Macias said.
The district attorney’s office rejected the drug case against Semick, citing insufficient evidence, according to documents.
To date, Perez has implicated dozens of LAPD officers in a host of alleged crimes and cases of misconduct. As a result of his admissions and allegations, more than 70 criminal convictions have been overturned.

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