Pubdate: Thu, 09 Mar 2000
Source: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Daily News of Los Angeles
Address: P.O. Box 4200, Woodland Hills, CA 91365
Fax: (818)713-3723
Author: Beth Barrett and Greg Gittrich


The district attorney's criminal investigation into the Los Angeles
Police Department scandal has identified at least 10 Rampart Division
cops and other officers as suspects, sources close to the probe said
Wednesday. Sparks fly over Rampart cost

The officers, named in federal court motions, are under suspicion for
a myriad of crimes, including evidence planting, perjury, assaults and
attempted murder, according to the sources.

The motions were filed this week to delay trial of civil cases growing
out of the scandal in which officers allegedly abused suspects and
planted evidence on them, leading to wrongful convictions of dozens
and possibly hundreds of people. Prosecutors argued that the delay is
justified to allow the criminal investigation to move forward.

Cops named include the key informant, Rafael Perez, who agreed to
expose crimes and acts of thuggery that he and others committed in
exchange for a lighter sentence for stealing eight pounds of cocaine
from an LAPD evidence room.

All of the cops are either out of the department -- they resigned
under pressure or got fired -- or on administrative leave.

More cops tied to the growing scandal are expected to be named within
the next few weeks as prosecutors prepare to file about a dozen
motions seeking delays in civil lawsuits, said Deputy City Attorney
Paul Paquette.

"This is an acknowledgment that some of the defendants in these cases
are targets of a criminal investigation," he said.

Paquette is part of the city attorney's unit that has been overseeing
the city's defense against dozens of claims from people who say dirty
cops violated their civil rights, planted guns and drugs on them, and
testified falsely in court to send them to prison.

Many of the people who have filed federal civil lawsuits against the
city have had their criminal convictions overturned in state Superior
Court at the request of county prosecutors and police brass.

District Attorney Gil Garcetti and the LAPD sought the delays, arguing
in sworn declarations filed with the U.S. District Court that
information unearthed during discovery motions related to the federal
lawsuits could interfere with the criminal investigations.

"A number of the individual defendants named in this action are either
targets or subjects of our ongoing criminal investigation," wrote
Deputy District Attorney Dan Murphy in the sworn statements.

Murphy heads the county prosecutor's task force on

LAPD Lt. Emmanuel Hernandez filed a nearly identical declaration in
support of the stays.

Spokesmen for the District Attorney's Office and the LAPD declined
comment Wednesday.

"Clearly it makes sense because we don't want to jeopardize the
criminal cases," said one police source close to the ongoing
investigation of corruption.

There are no criminal charges pending against any of the officers,
according to Murphy's declaration. When pressed recently, Garcetti
said no criminal prosecutions are imminent.

However, the documents filed in federal court indicate indictments
against the cops will be handed down in the next three to six months
or the investigations will be discontinued.

fHelvetica f+b f-i s12 w12 l16Plaintiffs protest l14 On Feb. 25,
Perez was convicted and sentenced to a five-year prison sentence on
cocaine theft charges. He had faced up to 12 years, but received the
reduced punishment for his cooperation with investigators.

All of the cops targeted by investigators were named by Perez during
his hours of testimony, according to confidential transcripts obtained
by the Daily News.

Prosecutors believe other potential witnesses will seek cooperation
agreements, Murphy wrote in the federal court documents.

One plaintiff's attorney, Gregory Yates, called the move a "big smoke
screen" that allows the district attorney and the city attorney to
investigate cases selectively while victims' rights are ignored.

"The only ones who are being put on the back burner are the
plaintiffs," said Yates, attorney for Ruben Rojas, who was jailed for
two years after cops planted cocaine on him. Rojas was released last
November at the county officials' request.

Six Rampart Division anti-gang officers are named in Rojas' civil
rights lawsuit against the city. Yates said he will challenge the
city's request for a stay on the ground that no criminal charges are
pending against any of the officers.

"Don't these injured victims have the paramount rights?" Yates said.
"Aren't these the people whose rights should be protected, rather than
the right of the district attorney to prosecute at some time in the

Probe vs. lawsuits(: Whether or not any charges have been filed, stays
can be granted under federal law if it can be illustrated that some of
the defendants are the subject of a criminal investigation, Paquette

"Clearly this is a balancing test," he added. "There is a significant
public interest in not compromising the criminal investigation. These
were severe crimes committed by people who were supposed to uphold the

The City Attorney's Office has asked for stays in the case of Javier
Ovando, who allegedly was handcuffed, taken from his apartment and
shot in the chest and the head by Perez and his partner, Officer Nino
Durden, in October 1996.

Ovando, framed with a gun by the officers, was released from prison
after serving two years and 11 months of a 23-year sentence. Two other
cops are named in the civil lawsuit.

The city also has asked for a stay in the case of Jimmy Lee Render,
who police illegally stopped, searched, seized and planted evidence
on, resulting in a six-year sentence. He was released after serving 2
1/2 years. Two cops are named in the litigation.

"There is a massive amount of information," Yates said. "It's not
right for us to wait on criminal prosecution for years."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek Rea