Perez’s Credibility Under New Attack
By MATT LAIT and SCOTT GLOVER, Times Staff Writers
September 26, 2000
In yet another challenge to the credibility of ex-Los Angeles Police Officer Rafael Perez, LAPD officials have belatedly turned over the statement of a jailhouse informant who told authorities that Perez once boasted of having the power to wreak havoc on the lives of those who crossed him, according to documents reviewed by The Times.
“If someone pisses me off, I’ll throw their name into a hat and they’ll get investigated–innocent or not,” Perez allegedly told his cellmate as another prisoner listened in.
The allegation comes from Hank Rodriguez, another jailed ex-L.A. officer, according to the confidential documents that are the object of a court order forbidding their release. Rodriguez claims that he spent time in the cell next to Perez’s after he was jailed on a parole violation stemming from a DUI conviction. Documents also show that Rodriguez was fired from the LAPD in 1974 after being accused of forgery.
Rodriguez alleged to Rampart task force investigators in March that, in the presence of fellow inmates, Perez adopted “a gang member type of attitude.” According to the informant, he periodically broke into rap tunes and boasted of having a book and movie deal.
Winston Kevin McKesson, Perez’s attorney, said his client has never met Rodriguez.
“This is pure folly,” McKesson said. “Just more people coming out of the woodwork.” He noted that there are several officers Perez does not like whom he has not implicated in the scandal.
It is not known whether authorities have confirmed that Rodriguez was in a cell next to Perez’s. Nor is it known whether they have located or interviewed the cellmate to whom Rodriguez alleges Perez boasted of having the power to make problems for those who made him angry.
In general, information from jailhouse informants is viewed with skepticism. Often such informants trade fabricated information to win some benefit in their own cases, or to ingratiate themselves with authorities. In the late 1980s, the California Legislature passed a law requiring that jurors be warned to view informants’ testimony with suspicion.
Though Rodriguez made the allegation more than five months
ago, his statement was “misplaced” by LAPD investigators until earlier this month, according to a letter from LAPD Cmdr. Dan Schatz, who is overseeing the Rampart probe.
Schatz wrote the letter after Superior Court Judge Jacqueline A. Connor told him she wanted a detailed explanation for the delay in turning the information over to prosecutors, who are preparing to go to trial with a case against four of Perez’s former colleagues in the Rampart Division. As a result of the LAPD’s failure to provide the information, prosecutors did not turn the allegations over in a timely manner to defense attorneys representing the accused officers.
That is a potentially serious oversight because the defense attorneys might be able to use Rodriguez’s allegations to undermine Perez’s credibility, should he be called as a witness.
Perez, the central figure in the ongoing LAPD corruption scandal, has agreed to cooperate with authorities in exchange for a lighter prison sentence for stealing cocaine. He has implicated dozens of officers in crimes and misconduct. To date, nearly 100 convictions have been overturned largely as a result of his information.
While police officials contend that they have corroborated 70%-80% of Perez’s allegations, his credibility has come under sharp attack from defense attorneys representing LAPD officers he has accused of crimes.
Perez’s credibility was further challenged when it was disclosed last week that one of his former lovers alleges that he was involved in crimes with David Mack, a convicted bank robber and ex-LAPD officer. That witness alleges that the pair killed two people in a “crash pad” apartment near the Rampart police station where Perez once worked. Investigators served a search warrant last week on another Rampart officer whose 1986 BMW the witness alleges was used to dispose of the bodies.
The woman, whose identity is being withheld by The Times at the request of authorities, claims to have witnessed a major cocaine transaction between Mack and Perez in 1992.
Perez has denied any criminal involvement with Mack, his former friend and partner.
Tags: David Mack, forgery, misplaced statements, officer credibility, rafael perez