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Informant in LAPD scandal freed from prison

Perez pleaded guilty in 1999 to stealing cocaine from a police evidence locker.  

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The key informant in the Los Angeles Police corruption scandal was released from prison Tuesday morning after serving a portion of the five-year sentence he received as part of a plea bargain, authorities said.

Former officer Rafael Perez, 33, was placed on parole after leaving the California Correction Institute in Tehachapi, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Margo Bach. A California judge Monday ruled that, because of good-time and work-time credits, Perez had served enough time and should be released.

It was the 1998 arrest of Perez, then an LAPD officer, after he was caught stealing eight pounds of cocaine from a police evidence locker that started the corruption scandal in the department's troubled former anti-drug and anti-gang division.

Since his plea agreement, Perez has provided more than 4,000 pages of testimony describing how he and other officers in the Rampart Division's anti-gang unit routinely planted drugs and guns on suspects, fabricated arrest reports, beat suspects in custody and in some cases shot unarmed, innocent people.

CNN's Anne McDermott has more on Rafael Perez, the LAPD officer whose testimony on police corruption rocked the department (July 24)

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Citing safety concerns, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry allowed Perez to leave California to serve out his parole. "The defendant is a notorious individual who for obvious reasons would be better off serving his parole outside the state," the judge said.

Perez's attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, said the former officer will most likely leave California but declined to reveal his plans.

Federal authorities launched a civil rights investigation after Perez admitted he and his former partner, Nino Durden, shot Javier Francisco Ovando and planted a gun on him in 1996.

Ovando, paralyzed from the shooting, was convicted of assaulting the officers. He was released after serving nearly three years in prison and eventually settled the largest civil lawsuit in city history, $15 million.

Perez's legal troubles may not be over because federal authorities have concluded he does not have immunity from federal prosecution. A grand jury is hearing testimony about possible civil rights violations stemming from the Ovando case among other alleged police abuses, CNN has learned.

Perez's plea agreement with state prosecutors has thus far led to criminal charges against eight officers, including an attempted murder charge against Durden.

In March, Durden also accepted a plea agreement in return for his cooperation with the investigation.

The scandal has led to more than 100 criminal convictions being overturned and the city of Los Angeles signing a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department requiring federal oversight of the police department's management and training policies.


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