|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Former deputy D.A. testifies in trial of 4 LAPD officers
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.
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.
LAPD trial starts with attacks on former officer Perez
Department of Justice proposed consent decree
The Los Angeles Police Department
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.