SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit upheld a $15 million award for three officers who accused a corrupt member of the Los Angeles Police Department of targeting them in the fallout of the “Rampart scandal.”
Former officer Rafael Perez, a central figure in the alleged corruption of dozens of officers in the Rampart division, was arrested and charged with stealing cocaine from an LAPD evidence locker. In exchange for a reduced sentence, he agreed to name other officers involved in crimes and other misconduct. Perez told prosecutors that Paul Harper, Edward Ortiz and Brian Liddy had planted a gun on a gang suspect during a 1996 arrest.
The officers were charged with conspiring to file a false police report and conspiring to commit perjury.
Judge Paez said the LAPD wanted “to arrest the officers publicly and parade them in front of the media,” as proof that the department was dutifully scourging corruption from its ranks.
But a jury acquitted the men on all charges, and the LAPD issued a press release stating that the verdict sent a clear message that the LAPD would not tolerate misconduct.
The officers fired back with a suit of their own, claiming the department turned them into scapegoats.
Paez said the evidence clearly tipped in the officers’ favor. For example, District Attorney Gil Garcetti testified that Police Chief Bernard Parks “hounded” him about filing charges in the Rampart cases and ignored all caution, saying, “I don’t care. Let’s get the case behind us. If we prosecute the case, even if you lose the case, it’s over. It’s done.”
The appeals court affirmed a $5 million award for each officer.