Ex-LAPD officer pleads guilty to federal charges
By Stanley Wilson
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Former Los Angeles police officer Rafael Perez, whose arrest launched a widespread corruption probe in the department, pleaded guilty Monday to federal civil-rights violations in a deal that sends him back to prison, prosecutors said.
During a federal court appearance, Perez, 34, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Javier Francisco Ovando, who was shot and framed by Perez and his former partner, Nino Durden, in 1996.
In a second felony count, Perez admitted to possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. He used the firearm to frame Ovando.
"Through this guilty plea, Rafael Perez has been held accountable for abusing and mistreating members of the very public he was sworn to protect and serve," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ralph Boyd Jr.
Perez was released from custody in July after serving nearly three years in jail as part of a plea bargain with state prosecutors for stealing eight pounds of cocaine from a police evidence room. In exchange for his cooperation, Perez received immunity from state prosecution for revealing alleged widespread corruption in the LAPD's Rampart Division's anti-gang unit.
Federal authorities said Perez's state plea deal did not include federal immunity, and opened a separate investigation that included a civil rights case against Perez.
In the Ovando case, Perez said he and Durden shot Ovando several times during a gang surveillance operation, then conspired to cover up the shooting by planting a gun on Ovando and lying about it in court, claiming self-defense.
Ovando, paralyzed from the shooting, was convicted of assaulting the officers and was sentenced to prison in 1997. He was released from a 23-year sentence after investigators learned he had been framed.
Ovando reached a settlement with the city of Los Angeles for $15 million, the largest police-abuse civil settlement in city history.
In March, Durden entered into a plea agreement with state and federal prosecutors stemming from the Ovando shooting and other charges. He is expected to be ordered to serve at least seven years and eight months in state prison in his sentencing,which is set for January.
Perez' plea agreement calls for him to serve two years in federal prison when he is sentenced in March 2002. He remains free on $50,000 bond.
Planted drugs, shootings
After his first plea agreement with state prosecutors, Perez described how he and former partners in the Rampart Division's anti-gang unit routinely planted drugs and guns on suspects, fabricated arrest reports and beat suspects in custody. In some cases they shot unarmed, innocent people during gang sweeps in a crime-plagued region west of downtown Los Angeles, he said.
The scandal has led to the overturning of more than 100 criminal convictions. The city of Los Angeles also signed a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department requiring federal oversight of the police department's management and training policies.
The city has paid over $40 million dollars in civil lawsuits related to the corruption scandal. Some city officials estimate the costs could exceed $125 million by the time the remaining cases are settled.
Perez has agreed that he will pay full restitution to the victims of his actions and he will not profit from any of his admitted crimes by selling any part of his life story.
Federal authorities say they are pursuing more charges against current and former LAPD officers as part of the ongoing investigation into alleged corruption in the Rampart Division.
Eight officers have been charged with criminal misconduct since the corruption probe began nearly four years ago.
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The Los Angeles Police Department
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