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Mexican authorities dig for alleged victims of Rafael Perez

Police corruption trial underway in L.A.

In this story:

Opening statements in Los Angeles

Defense to request a ban on Perez testimony


LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Law enforcement officials in Mexico began digging Friday in search of the alleged victims of former Los Angeles police officer Rafael Perez, as a trial against four police officers charged in a widespread corruption scandal got under way in Los Angeles.

GRAPHIC The trial of four Los Angeles Police Department officers implicated in the largest corruption scandal

LAPD Scandal

graphic LAPD scandal a stark example of the failure of police reform



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Their chief accuser is Perez, who agreed to testify about alleged officer misconduct in the LAPD anti-gang units in exchange for a lenient sentence for stealing six pounds of cocaine from the police evidence locker. Under the plea agreement, Perez could be a free man next year.

A former girlfriend of Perez alleges he and his former partner killed three people and dumped their bodies in Tijuana. An attorney for Perez said his client denies the allegations.

Sonia Flores led law enforcement to the trash-strewn ravine last weekend. Friday, Mexican officials dug four meters of earth from the bottom of the culvert. No bodies were found.

Opening statements in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, opening statements began in the corruption trial with a prosecutor telling jurors the four officers "conspired to obstruct justice and framed innocent people and covered up their crimes."

"This is not a trial of Rafael Perez. No matter what you have heard, he is not on trial here," Deputy District Attorney Laura Laesecke told jurors.

But defense attorneys wasted no time in attacking Perez' credibility as a witness against their clients.

Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor asked prosecutors if they could say they would call Perez as a witness. Deputy District Attorney Anne Ingalls said "no, I cannot." Defense attorneys said if Perez is called as a witness against Sgt. Edward Ortiz, Sgt. Brian Liddy or Officers Paul Harper or Michael Buchanan, they will ask him about the alleged murders.

Perez's attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, said his client won't testify about the Tijuana allegations unless he is granted immunity from prosecution. District Attorney spokeswoman Victoria Pipkin said "there is no way" Perez will be given an immunity agreement.

Defense to request a ban on Perez testimony

Joel Issacson, the attorney for Paul Harper, said if Perez does take the stand to testify against the four officers, but refuses to answer questions about the alleged murders by taking the fifth so he doesn't incriminate himself, defense attorneys will ask to bar all of Perez's testimony.

"A person gets on the stand and says 'I say x, y, z happened'... tells that for the D.A ... then when the defense lawyers get up he says 'I'm not talking.' Well that's half of a trial, half of a witness, so that's a problem," Issacson said.

He added that if Perez invokes the fifth amendment on the witness stand, he believes it would be an automatic mistrial or dismissal of the case against the four LAPD officers.

Perez' attorney wants immunity for his client in connection with the alleged Tijuana murders either included in the current immunity agreement or made to be part of a new agreement.

Appeals court intercedes in LAPD corruption trial
October 12, 2000
Appeals court intercedes in LAPD corruption trial
October 12, 2000
LAPD trial starts with attacks on former officer Perez
October 5, 2000
Jury selection begins in LAPD police misconduct trial
October 4, 2000
Five years later, O.J. Simpson says Los Angeles Police scandal has relevance for his own case
October 4, 2000
Four LAPD officers go on trial with accuser in the spotlight
October 3, 2000
Los Angeles City Council agrees to federal police reforms
September 20, 2000
Current and former LA police officers sue department for $100 million
August 24, 2000
Los Angeles police officer pleads guilty to civil rights violations
August 18, 2000
Public defender: Up to 30,000 cases need review in light of LAPD scandal
August 10, 2000
Another conviction overturned in LAPD scandal
August 4, 2000
LAPD officer pleads guilty to federal civil rights charges
August 4, 2000
LAPD officers face administrative charges in controversial shooting
July 26, 2000

Department of Justice proposed consent decree
City of Los Angeles notes on proposed plan
Independent Analysis of the Los Angeles Police Department's Board of Inquiry Report on the Rampart Scandal
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The Los Angeles Police Department
Los Angeles County District Attorney Homepage
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California

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