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Defense in Los Angeles police corruption trial to finish Friday

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Defense attorneys in the Los Angeles police corruption trial continued to present their case on Friday.

And closing arguments could come early next week, according to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor.

On Thursday, one of the officers on trial testified that he believed his arrest report on a reputed gang member -- who prosecutors now say was framed -- was accurate.

Officer Paul Harper said Thursday that he filed the report on the 1996 arrest of Allan Lobos based on his partner Sgt. Brian Liddy's account of the incident.

Lobos was charged with felony weapon possession and later pleaded guilty. But his conviction was overturned after former officer Rafael Perez, who was present during the arrest, told authorities a gun was planted on Lobos.

Harper and Liddy are among the four officers charged in the first trial stemming from alleged corruption at the Rampart Division's anti-gang unit. They are accused of obstruction of justice, false arrest and perjury.

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Prosecutors believe Lobos was framed by officers during a gang raid. Sgt. Edward Ortiz, who supervised the incident, is also charged with conspiracy and false arrest.

Officer didn't see suspect with gun

According to Harper's report, Lobos was observed running away as officers Liddy and Harper tried to detain him. Liddy says Lobos placed a .45 caliber handgun under the wheel well of a car before yelling "Don't shoot, I ain't got no gun!"

Earlier in the trial, Mervin Sanchez, another alleged gang member arrested that night, testified he saw a police officer place Lobos' finger in the trigger of a gun after the men were arrested and taken to a police station. Both officers denied his version of the incident and said there was no conspiracy to frame the suspects.

Under questioning by defense attorney Joel Isaacson, Harper testified he saw Lobos running but never actually saw a weapon. "I formed an opinion he had a gun after Liddy yelled 'gun,'" said Harper.

"The first time I saw the gun was in the trunk of our patrol car," he said.

Harper told jurors he wrote arrest reports based on his account of what his partner Liddy told him. "What I observed and what Officer Liddy told me he observed were very consistent," he said. "I stand by everything that's on that report."

"Did you tell the whole and entire truth in your report?" asked Isaacson.

"Yes," said Harper.

"Did you conspire to violate anyone's rights?" the attorney asked.

"No," Harper replied.

Prosecutor questions legality of arrest

During cross examination, prosecutor Laura Laesecke questioned Harper about whether there was probable cause to arrest Lobos and other gang members in the first place.

"What criminal activity did you see when you arrived?" she asked.

"None," said Harper.

"But you drew your gun and ordered them to their knees?" asked Laesecke.

"Yes," he said.

"Was this a consensual contact? Did you see them commit criminal activity?" asked Laesecke.

"No," Harper said.

Defense attorney Barry Levin asked Harper, "When you saw them running, did it change your state of mind?"

"Yes, people run for a reason, we had to react because we didn't know what was going on," said Harper.

Since the corruption scandal began, more than 100 criminal convictions have been overturned and at least 70 officers are under investigation.

In another case, officer Nino Durden, Rafael Perez' former partner, is charged with attempted murder, robbery and assault involving three separate incidents.

Perez has told investigators that the officers in the unit routinely planted evidence, framed and even shot innocent people.



RELATED STORIES:
Prosecution rests in LAPD corruption trial
October 30, 2000
LAPD officers testify they didn't see gang member with gun
October 26, 2000
Testimony in LAPD corruption trial centers on alleged gun planting
October 25, 2000
Indictments issued for two former LAPD officers
October 23, 2000
Witness testifies truck never hit LAPD officers
October 23, 2000
Judge rules testimony concerning alleged Perez murders is irrelevant
October 20, 2000
Gang member testifies LAPD officers tried to frame him
October 19, 2000
Former deputy D.A. testifies in trial of 4 LAPD officers
October 18, 2000
Mexican authorities dig for alleged victims of Rafael Perez
October 14, 2000
LAPD trial starts with attacks on former officer Perez
October 5, 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
LAPD officer pleads guilty to federal civil rights charges
August 4, 2000

RELATED SITES:
American Civil Liberties Union
Pittsburgh Police Bureau
Los Angeles Police Department Web site
Justice Department Civil Rights Division
Los Angeles County District Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California
Federal Bureau of Investigation


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