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LAPD officers take stand in Rampart scandal trial


LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Two police officers took the stand Monday at the trial of four of their colleagues charged in a widespread corruption scandal.

Officers Kulin Patel and Tim Kalkus were questioned Monday about whether officer Michael Buchanan was present at a weapons bust on September 18, 1996. Buchanan testified in court that he witnessed the bust, but the prosecution, which is trying to prove Buchanan perjured himself in his testimony, claims he was "not present and on vacation."

Buchanan is charged along with Sgts. Brian Liddy and Edward Ortiz and Officer Paul Harper with conspiracy to obstruct justice. Each of the officers is charged separately on other felony counts.

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This first trial is a test case, according to CNN's Charles Feldman

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GRAPHIC The trial of four Los Angeles Police Department officers implicated in the largest corruption scandal in the department's history begins with attacks on informant Rafael Perez.

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

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The four were the first to be charged in the so-called Rampart scandal, named for the police station at the center of the LAPD's worst corruption case in years. Patel and Kalkus worked with these officers in the LAPD anti-gang unit known as CRASH, which has since been disbanded.

Deputy District Attorney Laura Laesecke asked Patel about a field report he filled out from the day of the bust which did not list Buchanan as being on the scene when a suspected gang member was pulled over and a gun allegedly was found in his car. The suspect was later acquitted in a trial.

Defense attorney Harland Braun characterized the prosecution efforts to prove Buchanan was on vacation as "silly." He said Buchanan was at the hospital tending to his parents, both of whom were dying of cancer, and arrived on the scene late that day and therefore, was not logged onto the field reports.

"Is there any indication that an officer joined your car at any time, including midshift?" Laesecke asked Patel.

"No," he replied.

"Do you have any recollection that Michael Buchanan joined your car at any time that day?" she asked.

Patel replied "no" a second time.

Former Rampart officer Rafael Perez, in exchange for leniency on a felony cocaine conviction, has told investigators that he and many of his colleagues routinely planted evidence, framed, and even shot innocent people.

Perez's former partner, Nino Durden is also awaiting trial -- on six felony charges, including attempted murder.

Since Perez began detailing stories of officer misconduct, 106 criminal convictions have been overturned, and at least 70 officers are under investigation.

CNN has learned Patel is also under investigation.

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
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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