Pubdate: Sat, 11 Nov 2000
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Contact:  PO Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191
Fax: (619) 293-1440
Author: Matt Krasnowski, Copley News Service
Bookmark: L.A. Rampart Scandal


Reportedly Denies Killings Occurred

LOS ANGELES -- A former lover of the ex-police officer at the center of a 
massive police corruption investigation has recanted her allegations that 
he and another former officer killed three people and buried their bodies 
in Tijuana, law enforcement sources said yesterday.

The recantation comes as some news agencies reported that jurors in the 
first trial stemming from the scandal centered in the Los Angeles Police 
Department's Rampart division reached a partial verdict in the trial of 
four officers.

The allegations that sparked the trial came from former Los Angeles police 
officer Rafael Perez. His credibility has consistently been under scrutiny, 
but it was severely damaged last month when it was revealed that his former 
girlfriend, Sonia Flores, 23, told investigators he was involved in three 

But sources said that on Thursday Flores told investigators she had 
fabricated her detailed account of the slayings of a Los Angeles man and a 
woman by Perez and his then-partner David Mack.

"She was administered a polygraph examination and she did not do very 
well," said a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity. 
"She then recanted her statement and stated that the reason for fabrication 
was to essentially get back at Perez, who had previously jilted her."

Flores is facing the possibility of federal criminal charges for the phony 

"It's a felony offense to lie to a federal agency," the source said.

During the investigation, sources reported that investigators were 
skeptical of her account, but that her story couldn't be corroborated nor 
disproved. A source said polygraph tests are typically given late in such 

Investigators were clearly annoyed by the development. Her story caused 
U.S. officials to negotiate with Mexican authorities for a lengthy search 
for bodies in a garbage-filled hillside in Colonia Altamira, a hillside 
neighborhood overlooking the Tijuana tourist strip of Avenida Revolucion. 
Officials from the Mexican federal attorney general's office said no human 
remains were discovered.

Her tale also threw the entire Rampart investigation and its first trial 
into question.

Flores' lawyer, Marshall Bitkower, didn't return telephone messages. He 
told the Los Angeles Times, "She's a woman scorned. She had everyone fooled."

Perez's lawyer Winston Kevin McKesson had contended from the time Flores' 
account became public that the story was "a fantasy" and that she was 
merely seeking attention. Mack, who is serving a prison sentence for bank 
robbery, has also denied the charges, according to his lawyer.

Officials with the FBI and in Mexico had no immediate comment about the 

Flores told investigators that in the mid-1990s, Perez and Mack shot and 
killed a man and his mother during a drug deal. Two months after the 
alleged killings, she said she joined Perez and Mack as they drove to 
Tijuana. She said that during that trip the men disposed of another 
victim's body and that Perez showed her the site where he disposed of the 
bodies of the man and woman from the killing she witnessed.

The story cast Perez in a harsher light. The former anti-gang enforcement 
officer had pleaded guilty to stealing 6 pounds of cocaine from a police 
evidence locker and began telling authorities about frame-ups and other 
misconduct in the department in exchange for a light sentence.

Perez's revelations have led to the reversal of more than 100 convictions, 
put about 70 officers under investigation and spurred a federal decree that 
will lead to a court-appointed monitor overseeing the Los Angeles Police 
Department. Scandal-related lawsuits are expected to cost the city at least 
$125 million.

Flores' allegations became public just as the first Rampart-related trial 
began. Perez was listed as a witness who would testify against four of his 
former colleagues accused of framing gang members on firearms and assault 

During statements made to prospective jurors in the case, defense lawyer 
Harland Braun gave a graphic retelling of Flores' allegations, causing some 
jury prospects to gasp. But prosecutors revealed Perez would cite his Fifth 
Amendment right against self-incrimination if he were asked about the three 
alleged slayings. The government lawyers never called him to the stand and 
barely referred to him during the 31/2-week trial.

Trial watchers said the timing of the story could cause prosecutors to 
claim the phony account denied them the ability to call their best witness. 
But Braun, who represents accused Officer Michael Buchanan, said even 
without the murder allegations, Perez's credibility would have been attacked.

"The last thing they wanted to do was call Perez," Braun said.

A spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press, quoting unnamed sources, reported 
yesterday that the Rampart trial jurors submitted a partial verdict to 
Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor in a sealed envelope at the end of 
their first full day of deliberations.

Defense attorneys weren't notified about the verdicts and Braun said he 
doesn't "believe it was a big deal."

Jurors did not meet yesterday because the courts were closed for Veterans 
Day. The panel is expected to reconvene Monday morning.
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