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13 Miami officers face corruption charges

Guy Lewis, acting U.S. Attorney
Acting U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis details the charges in Miami on Friday.  

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Thirteen current or former city police officers are charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and other crimes related to coverups and the planting of guns at crime scenes, federal officials announced at a news conference Friday.

A federal grand jury returned indictments Thursday against 11 officers who are alleged to have been involved in a series of shootings, Acting U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis said. Charges against two retired city police officers -- who signed a plea agreement earlier this week -- were unsealed Friday morning.

Some of the charges carry up to 10 years in prison. Lewis said that most of the officers are charged with multiple counts and face a "lengthy period of incarceration" if convicted.

CNN's John Zarrella speaks with the family of Antonio Young who seek to vindicate his slaying with the indictment of thirteen Miami police officers (September 7)

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The charges are in relation to four shootings in the Miami area since 1995, in which officers are accused of planting weapons and falsifying police reports, Lewis said.

The officers are also facing accusations of stealing money and personal property from people who were arrested and stealing guns from shootings that were planted at other crime scenes.

In one instance in 1995, after two unarmed suspects were shot and killed by police, several officers allegedly met at a local barbecue restaurant to "get their stories straight," Lewis said. The officers agreed to tell investigators that the suspects had guns, Lewis said, and discussed specific details they could use to back up that false claim.

In a case from 1996, a police officer planted a gun at a crime scene that had been stolen from a shooting scene the year before, said Lewis. The gun -- which the officer had kept on hand "when and if they needed a throw-down" -- was planted to try to convince investigators that two unarmed suspects fired on by police were armed, Lewis said.

"The allegations in this indictment are clearly disturbing," Lewis said. "Make no mistake about it. The actions of these officers stain the badge of every hard-working, honest, faithful, honorable police officer who puts her life on the line every single day."

He said Miami Police Chief Raul Martinez had asked that the U.S. Department of Justice consider opening an investigation to root out any other officers who might be involved, and to examine the department's policies and practices.

"We have had a problem in the past," Martinez said. "We have not and will not hide from this past. Today's the culmination of dealing with the past, correcting it, and moving forward."

Martinez said the investigation was started after an incident in 1997, in which investigators determined a gun had been planted. That prompted them to review other such cases.

Martinez called the officers' actions "embarrassing" and "unacceptable," and said he hoped federal investigators would uncover "any other areas which we may have missed" inside the department.

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