Pubdate: Wed, 09 Aug 2000
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2000 The Fresno Bee


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A judge has overturned a man's 1997 drug selling 
conviction because jurors were not told that an officer who testified at 
trial had been relieved of duty for allegedly using drugs himself.

James Bryant, who had been serving a 12-year prison sentence, is expected 
to be released as early as next week, according to a report in Wednesday's 
Los Angeles Times.

Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp said during a Monday hearing that 
Bryant likely would have been acquitted "had the truth been known about 
Officer Gustavo Raya."

Raya had been relieved of duty when he testified against Bryant. At the 
time, Raya faced two dozen departmental charges, including: improper 
handling of narcotics evidence; using and possessing drugs and repeatedly 
threatening his wife with a gun.

An LAPD disciplinary panel later found Raya guilty of the charges and he 
was fired from the department.

Raya was a former narcotics officer in the San Fernando Valley whose 
disciplinary problems were reported in June by the Times.

After the article appeared, prosecutors sent at least 140 letters to 
defense attorneys involved in cases that Raya was subpoenaed to testify. 
The letters notified defense attorneys that new information had been 
discovered that may help a defendant's case.

The credibility of police as witnesses has been challenged by Raya's case 
and the ongoing police corruption probe centering on the department's 
Rampart station.

Judges have overturned more than 100 convictions since the Rampart scandal 
broke last September. Most of those cases involve Rafael Perez, the former 
anti-gang officer who became an informant as part of a plea bargain for 
stealing cocaine from an evidence room.

In a related matter, the Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to pay 
$580,000 to a man who spent eight months in jail after he was allegedly 
framed on a gun possession charge.

Miguel Hernandez claims Perez and his former partner, Nino Durden, planted 
a gun on him in October 1996.

Durden was arrested last week and faces attempted murder and other charges 
related to alleged wrongdoing at the station.

The settlement for Hernandez is the third payout -- and largest to date-- 
from the scandal. The city attorney's office has estimated that total 
liability could exceed $125 million from Rampart police misconduct.
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