4th Officer Is Charged in Corruption Scandal

Flores was (Left to right) Officer Paul Harper, his lawyer Joel lsaacson, Sgt. Edward Ortiz, Sgt. Brian Liddy

Flores was (Left to right) Officer Paul Harper, his lawyer Joel lsaacson, Sgt. Edward Ortiz, Sgt. Brian Liddy

By SCOTT GLOVER and MATT LAIT, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

July 11, 2000      A Los Angeles police officer was arrested Monday for allegedly helping to frame three innocent men, making him the fourth LAPD officer to be charged in connection with the city’s unfolding police corruption scandal.
Officer Michael Buchanan, 30, was booked at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Santa Clarita Valley station about 5 p.m, Sheriff’s Department records show. A sheriff’s spokesman said the officer was expected to be released on $125,000 bail.
Buchanan, who once worked in the Rampart Division’s anti-gang CRASH unit, is charged with perjury and conspiracy stemming from two arrests in 1996.
Prosecutors also filed new charges against two LAPD sergeants–Edward Ortiz and Brian Liddy–who already were charged with corruption-related crimes and awaiting a preliminary hearing this month. They too worked in Rampart.
Attorneys for Buchanan and Ortiz said their clients have done nothing wrong. Liddy’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The new charges against Liddy and Ortiz stem from an arrest on July 19, 1996, which also involved Buchanan. In that case, Raul Munoz and Cesar Natividad were arrested for assaulting officers, allegedly striking two of them with their pickup truck as they sped through an alley.
But Rafael Perez, a former LAPD officer who stole cocaine from an evidence locker and now is cooperating with authorities in exchange for reduced jail time, has told investigators that Munoz and Natividad were framed for the crime. Perez said he was present when the officers concocted a plan to make it appear as if they had been assaulted.
According to Perez, Sgt. Ortiz told Buchanan to smash the truck’s window in order to corroborate his claim that he was struck by the moving vehicle and bounced off the windshield. Buchanan intentionally tore his trousers to add to the effect, Perez alleged.
Detectives on the LAPD’s corruption task force later backed up Perez’s claim with Munoz and Natividad, prompting prosecutors in February to seek reversals of their convictions.
Attorney Barry Levin, who represents Ortiz, called the new charges “garbage.”
“This is even weaker than the first case,” he said.
In that case, Liddy, Ortiz and Officer Paul Harper are accused of framing a man on a gun possession charge. All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.
In addition to the case with Liddy and Ortiz, Buchanan is charged with perjury in connection with the Sept. 18, 1996 arrest of Nabil Hasan.
Hasan was arrested by Perez for allegedly having a loaded handgun in the trunk of his car. Perez has since told investigators that the gun was not loaded and that he fabricated that allegation in his arrest report.
Buchanan falsely testified under oath on two occasions that he observed Hasan’s arrest, according to a criminal complaint filed by Deputy Dist. Atty. Laura L. Laesecke. In fact, prosecutors allege, Buchanan was not present at the scene and was on vacation.
Buchanan, Liddy and Ortiz are expected to be arraigned Thursday, a district attorney’s spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are continuing to pursue an overarching conspiracy case against numerous officers from the Rampart Division’s CRASH unit. More officers are expected to be charged before summer’s end, sources said.
In court papers recently filed in connection with the corruption probe, prosecutors said investigators have interviewed more than 500 police officers and several hundred civilians.
“The criminal investigation has examined over 100 incidents of alleged misconduct, potentially involving more than 70 police officers,” wrote R. Dan Murphy, who heads Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti’s prosecution team.

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