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Former deputy D.A. testifies in trial of 4 LAPD officers

trial
Buchanan and Harper sit pensively during the Rampart police corruption trial in Los Angeles on Tuesday

October 18, 2000
Web posted at: 5:52 a.m. EDT (0952 GMT)


In this story:

'Problems with proof'

Witness remembers bloody leg

Star witness may not testify

Part of incident caught on videotape

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A former prosecutor and a Los Angeles policewoman under investigation are among the latest witnesses to testify as the first four LAPD officers stand trial on charges stemming from the worst corruption scandal in the police department's history.

Testimony Tuesday ended with the trial judge banning the lawyer of another witness.

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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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Three of the defendants, Sgts. Edward Ortiz and Brian Liddy and Officer Michael Buchanan, had claimed that on July 19, 1996, they moved in to bust what they believed was a gang meeting, when a truck trying to leave the area drove at high speed through the alley, striking Liddy and Buchanan.

The prosecution said in its criminal complaint that those claims are untrue. Prosecutors say Buchanan and Liddy were not hit by the truck and that they falsely arrested the two men in the truck and perjured themselves in their testimony about that case in court.

Ortiz, Liddy and Buchanan are being tried, along with Officer Paul Harper, on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Each of the officers is charged separately on other felony counts.

The four are the first to be tried in the so-called "Rampart" scandal, named for the police station at the center of the extensive corruption investigation into the LAPD. All four served in the now-disbanded anti-gang unit known as CRASH.

'Problems with proof'

The former deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case in question, Mark Arnold, testified Tuesday that he had concerns about the officers' claims when he tried the case.

Arnold, now a judge in Torrance, California, said he asked a doctor if the officers' injuries were consistent with the nature of the incident. He said the doctor diagnosed Liddy with an acute left ankle sprain and Buchanan with a contusion to the head. She [the doctor] said the injuries could be consistent with the nature of the incident described, Arnold testified.

However, on redirect by the prosecution, Deputy District Attorney Anne Ingalls asked Arnold if there was anything that bothered him about the case. "You did have concerns about this case, right?" asked Ingalls.

Arnold said that yes, he "had problems with proof." He said that if Buchanan had been hit at 25 mph (40 km/h) as he claimed, he thought his injuries would be more extensive. He added that he thought the inconsistencies would be "explainable in court."

Witness remembers bloody leg

Another LAPD officer, the third to testify in the trial, Raquel Argomaniz, testified that she was on the scene of the incident on the night in question.

She had trouble remembering many of the events that night, but did say she saw officer Buchanan and that "something drew my attention to his legs." Argomaniz went on to say that Buchanan's "pants were torn, and his leg was bloody." Buchanan told her that the truck had hit him.

CNN has learned that Argomaniz is among at least 70 Los Angeles officers under investigation as a result of the Rampart scandal.

Star witness may not testify

According to sworn court documents obtained by CNN, another officer on the scene that night, Rafael Perez, claimed that the incident discussed in court Tuesday did not happen the way his former colleagues reported.

Perez said the defendants never were struck by a fleeing truck, and that the story was made up to arrest the two occupants of the truck.

Perez is the former Rampart officer who, in exchange for leniency on a felony cocaine conviction, told investigators that he and many of his colleagues routinely planted evidence, framed, and even shot innocent people. Perez was charged with taking cocaine from a police evidence locker.

Since Perez began detailing stories of officer misconduct within the LAPD, 106 criminal convictions have been overturned.

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

Although it remains to be seen if Perez himself will take the stand in this trail, the prosecution has been trying to corroborate his claims with other witnesses.

Part of incident caught on videotape

Tuesday, prosecutors called on an LAPD officer who ticketed the truck that allegedly hit Buchanan and Liddy for having a cracked windshield. The ticket was written three weeks before the incident in question took place.

They also introduced a videotape clip of a program called "LAPD -- Life on the Beat" which coincidentally had cameras on the scene the night of the alleged assault. The edited clip showed only portions of the incident and did not include any footage of officers being struck by a truck. The defense argued that the truck assault could have happened out of view of the cameras.

The driver of the truck that night, Raul Munoz, also took the stand in the closing minutes of Tuesday's session and will lead off Wednesday's testimony -- although without his lawyer in the courtroom.

Attorney Gregory Moreno was "forbidden from attending the trial" by Judge Jacqueline Connor, for making what she said were "disparaging comments" in the courtroom. Moreno vehemently denied the allegations, but said he would not fight the decision.



RELATED STORIES:
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

RELATED DOCUMENTS:
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

RELATED SITES:
The Los Angeles Police Department
Los Angeles County District Attorney Homepage
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California


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