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Jury Gets LA Police Corruption Case

Updated:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Attorneys for four officers accused in a police corruption scandal wrapped up their case by asking jurors for an acquittal, insisting there was no credible evidence against them.

Harland Braun, representing Officer Michael Buchanan, reminded jurors during his closing statement Wednesday that they had not heard from key witnesses, including disgraced ex-officer Rafael Perez.

``We're not talking about making a public statement on whether police are good or bad,'' Braun told jurors. ``We're talking about these men who have done nothing wrong.''

Testimony in the case, spawned by Perez's allegations of corruption in a gang-fighting unit of the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart station, lasted 3 1/2 weeks and included gang members among some 30 witnesses.

The case went to the jury Wednesday. They met for about an hour before retiring for the night.

Buchanan, Sgts. Edward Ortiz and Brian Liddy and Officer Paul Harper are accused of falsifying reports to frame innocent people in three cases between March 1996 and April 1998.

The allegations surfaced after Perez — in a plea bargain on charges of stealing cocaine from an evidence locker — told prosecutors of widespread corruption at the Rampart station.

Some 100 convictions which Perez said were tainted by illegal police actions — including abusing and framing suspects — have been dismissed. The city expects to pay as much as $125 million in lawsuits by defendants in those cases.

Perez had been the prosecution's star witness but was dropped from its list after an ex-girlfriend alleged Perez committed murders during a drug deal. His lawyer said Perez wouldn't testify unless his immunity covered those accusations.

Attorney Barry Levin spoke in defense of Ortiz and the other officers, giving a fiery closing statement in which he called the defendants heroes and denounced gang members as ``creeps.''

But Deputy District Attorney Anne Ingalls denounced the accused officers, saying they were ``just like the defendants in other cases. When they lie they fight with you, they get mad at you. ... They blame someone else.''

In another court Wednesday, suspended Officer Nino F. Durden pleaded innocent to attempted murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed and handcuffed gang member. Perez alleged that Durden placed a rifle at the feet of Javier Ovando after they shot him in October 1996. Ovando was left paralyzed from the waist down.

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