Pubdate: Tue, 14 Mar 2000
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Los Angeles Times
Contact:  Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: (213) 237-4712
Author: Matt Lait, Scott Glover, Times Staff Writers
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In a significant breakthrough in the Rampart corruption investigation, a Los
Angeles police officer implicated in the scandal has corroborated testimony
from former Officer Rafael Perez about an alleged beating by police in 1998,
sources close to the criminal probe said.

The development is considered good news by prosecutors and detectives who
have been searching for witnesses to substantiate the allegations of Perez,
an admitted perjurer, who has testified that a band of Rampart officers
planted evidence to arrest innocent people, beat suspects, covered up
unjustified shootings and perjured themselves, among other abuses.

Complicating matters, however, is the fact that the officer who is providing
corroborating information also contradicts Perez on some points, saying the
disgraced officer had a larger role in the beating than he has acknowledged
to investigators, sources said.

The officer, whose name is being withheld by The Times to protect his
identity, came forward with the information about three weeks ago. At the
time, sources said, he was under scrutiny by internal affairs investigators
for unrelated misconduct growing out of the Rampart investigation.

A source familiar with the corruption probe said at least one other officer
has come forward with information, but details of what that officer has told
authorities were not available.

Another officer, who is not cooperating with authorities, told The Times in
January that he, too, could corroborate much of what Perez has testified to.
That officer has not spoken to investigators, fearing that he would be fired
for not disclosing what he knew at an earlier time.

For prosecutors and detectives on the corruption task force, such
corroborating testimony significantly bolsters the chance that criminal
charges could be filed against corrupt officers.

Police Department spokesman Cmdr. David J. Kalish declined to discuss the
LAPD's ongoing investigation or to confirm whether officers have come
forward to substantiate Perez.

"We strongly encourage any officer who has any information about crimes and
misconduct to come forward," Kalish said. "Let there be no doubt: The
department will get to the bottom of the corruption, and it would be in an
officer's best interest to come forward sooner rather than later."

Perez, who pleaded guilty in September to stealing 8 pounds of cocaine from
LAPD evidence facilities, was sentenced last month to five years in prison
as part of a plea deal in which he agreed to help root out corruption in the

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Perez could be charged with perjury
if he is found to have lied in his testimony.

Perez's lawyer, Winston Kevin McKesson, said Perez has been "truthful and
forthright" throughout the investigation.

"He has had every incentive to state his involvement totally and
accurately," McKesson said. "He would have had no incentive to cover
anything up."

The incident in question is the alleged beating of suspected gang member
Gabriel Aguirre on Mar. 24, 1998, sources said. According to transcripts of
Perez's interviews with investigators, obtained by The Times, Perez and
other officers were searching for Aguirre, who was wanted for assault with a
deadly weapon, when they found him sleeping in an abandoned apartment.

"We kick the door down to the apartment. When we get inside, Mr. Aguirre is
laying asleep on the floor," Perez told investigators.

Perez said two officers jumped on Aguirre and began to beat him, one kneeing
the suspect in the back "at least 20 times," the other striking him
repeatedly with a metal flashlight.

One investigator asked Perez is the suspect had attempted to run from
officers, prompting the attack.

"This guy didn't run," Perez said. "This guy was asleep--legitimately

Perez told investigators that the first two officers weren't the only ones
who hit Aguirre.

"We knew a complaint was gonna come down from this," Perez explained. "We
started discussing about how we're gonna, uh, justify, explain all this," he

As the officers spoke, Aguirre could hear them and said, "Oh, yeah. Now, you
guys are gonna cover it up," Perez recalled.

"I went over there and pushed him up against the wall," Perez admitted to
investigators. " . . . an abrasion occurred where a little blood trickled

When a sergeant arrived, Perez said, he and the other officers told him two

"At first, we told him how it actually happened, how this guy was beat
down," Perez said. "And then, uh, we told him how we were gonna explain it."

Perez said the sergeant, who has since been relieved of duty in connection
with the scandal, then directed officers to pour beer on a nearby fire
escape to help support their tale that Aguirre obtained some of his injuries
when he slipped and fell during a chase.

"He helped in the covering up," Perez said. "He's one of the supervisors
that you do not tell him a bologna story, you know, that you're trying to
create to cover it up," Perez said. "You tell him the truth, how you thumped
this guy or whatever happened. And then, he'll agree with you, or not agree
with you, on how to cover it up. And if he doesn't agree with what you're
saying, he'll help you."
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