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Gang member testifies LAPD officers tried to frame him

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A man calling himself a "non-active gang member" told jurors in a police corruption trial Wednesday he "didn't see or hit police officers" as he sped down an alley, fleeing a police raid on a gang meeting in 1996.

Raul Munoz was deported to El Salvador following his conviction for assaulting Los Angeles police officers in that incident. He served time in a U.S. prison before being deported, but has since had his conviction overturned as a result of the Rampart police corruption scandal.

Rafael Perez, the former officer at the heart of the scandal, told investigators four LAPD officers framed Munoz. Prosecutors allege two of those officers, Sgt. Brian Liddy and Officer Michael Buchanan, conspired to frame Munoz by fabricating evidence.

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This first trial is a test case, according to CNN's Charles Feldman (Oct. 11)

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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.

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Returning from his home in El Salvador to testify, Munoz said he sped away from police because he was holding a gun for a fellow gang member. When his truck stalled, he jumped out and ran, throwing the gun in the bushes. When police finally caught him, Munoz said they kicked him so hard in the groin that he soiled his pants. In early interviews with LAPD detectives, Munoz said it was Buchanan who kicked him. Later he changed his testimony, saying it was Liddy.

Under cross examination by defense attorney Paul DePasquale, Munoz admitted he did not tell investigators who traveled to El Salvador to interview him in January that he had been kicked. DePasquale also hammered away at Munoz's conflicting descriptions of his flight from the gang meeting. Asked if he hit anyone with his truck, Munoz said, "I don't remember." But earlier, when the defense said that his windshield was broken because he hit an officer, Munoz said that was not true.

Liddy and Buchanan both claimed injuries and wrote in police reports that Munoz hit them as he tried to flee the gang meeting.

According to sworn court documents obtained by CNN, Perez was also on the scene that night. He claims the incident did not happen the way his former colleagues reported. He said the defendants were never struck by a fleeing truck, and that the story was fabricated to arrest the two occupants of the truck.

Perez is a 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 and at least 70 officers are under investigation.



RELATED STORIES:
Former deputy D.A. testifies in trial of 4 LAPD officers
October 18, 2000
LAPD officers take stand in Rampart scandal trial
October 16, 2000
Mexican authorities dig for alleged victims of Rafael Perez
October 14, 2000
Jury impaneled in LAPD corruption trial
October 11, 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
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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