Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jul 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Note: Times staff writer Joel Rubin contributed to this report.
Bookmark: (L.A. Rampart Scandal)
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


The panel supports a jury's verdict that the LAPD and city violated 
the rights of the three men by arresting and charging them without 
adequate evidence during their division's corruption scandal.

A federal appeals court upheld a $15 million jury verdict for three 
Los Angeles police officers who alleged they were falsely arrested 
and prosecuted as part of the Rampart corruption scandal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said there was evidence to support 
the jury's verdict that the city and the Los Angeles Police 
Department violated the officers' constitutional rights by arresting 
and charging the men without an adequate investigation.

The jury had awarded $5 million each to LAPD Officer Paul Harper, 
Sgt. Edward Ortiz and former Sgt. Brian Liddy. With interest and 
attorney fees, the city is now liable for about $18 million, lawyers 
for the officers said.

In upholding the verdict, the three-judge panel cited statements by 
detectives who admitted that they rushed their criminal 
investigation, and testimony from former Los Angeles County Dist. 
Atty. Gil Garcetti, who said he and his deputies were "hounded" by 
the LAPD to prosecute officers implicated in the Rampart scandal 
before the cases were ready. The judges also noted that Rafael Perez, 
the ex-LAPD-officer-turned-informant, had given shifting accounts of 
one of the underlying incidents in which the three officers were charged.

Perez, as part of a plea agreement on cocaine charges, cooperated 
with authorities, telling them during dozens of interviews that he 
and his colleagues routinely framed, beat and otherwise mistreated 
suspects. As a result, more than 100 criminal convictions were overturned.

Based in part on Perez's allegations, Harper, Liddy and Ortiz were 
arrested in April 2000 on corruption-related charges. After a 
monthlong criminal trial, Harper was acquitted of all charges. Liddy 
and Ortiz were acquitted on some counts but convicted of obstruction 
of justice. Their convictions were thrown out, however, after the 
trial judge concluded that she had committed an error that tainted 
the verdict. The district attorney ultimately decided not to retry 
the officers.

The three officers filed a civil lawsuit in 2001, alleging that 
police and prosecutors conspired to deprive them of their civil 
rights by falsely arresting them, searching their homes at gunpoint, 
fingerprinting them and bringing them to trial based on evidence 
elicited from convicted felons and liars.

Their civil suit centered on the one case in which all the officers 
were acquitted: The April 26, 1996, arrest of alleged 18th Street 
gang member Allan Lobos, who Perez contended was framed by the 
officers on a gun charge.

During the federal civil rights trial, the jury heard testimony that 
the investigation into corruption at the LAPD was mismanaged by 
police and prosecutors who feuded about the how to handle the probe.

Garcetti testified that then-LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks told him in 
a telephone conversation that criminal charges should be filed 
against officers even if there wasn't sufficient evidence to win a conviction.

The jury "reasonably could have concluded" from Garcetti's testimony 
that LAPD officials were pushing for prosecutions on skimpy evidence, 
and that it was "indicative of an official policy," Judge Richard A. 
Paez wrote for the panel.

Lawyers who represented the officers said they were pleased with the ruling.

Joseph Y. Avrahamy, one of their lawyers, said the LAPD frequently 
throws officers "under the bus" during political crises, and he hoped 
the verdict would send the message that "officers are not expendable."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake