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LAPD Officers Convicted in Scandal

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Clockwise from bottom left: Harper, Buchanan, Oritz, Liddy


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three of four police officers accused of framing gang members were convicted of conspiracy Wednesday in the first trial to come out of the LAPD corruption scandal.

The Superior Court jury found Sgts. Brian Liddy and Edward Ortiz and Officer Michael Buchanan guilty. Officer Paul Harper was acquitted.

The officers sat stone still as the verdicts were read, while their families, who filled two rows of the courtroom, showed no emotion. One woman told others as the proceeding began: ``Remember, no crying.''

The partial convictions were a victory for prosecutors working under District Attorney Gil Garcetti, who lost his re-election bid a day before the case went to the jury.

The prosecution had pressed forward despite losing their star witness: Rafael Perez, a disgraced former cop whose allegations about police brutality and other wrongdoing in the Rampart station started the widening scandal. Prosecutors declined to call him as a witness after he demanded immunity from murder charges.

The jury was told to consider the case against each officer individually.

Besides conspiracy, Liddy was convicted of one count of filing a false police report and acquitted of two other counts. Ortiz also was convicted of filing a false report.

Buchanan was convicted of all three counts against him which had to do with his claim that he was hit by a truck driven by a gang member. Liddy's convictions included that incident.

The probe of the Rampart station's elite gang-fighting unit has led to the dismissal of approximately 100 criminal cases. The city attorney's office has agreed to pay $10.9 million to settle 29 lawsuits connected to the scandal, and some estimates say damage settlements could cost the city $125 million.

At the heart of the case was Perez, a disgraced former officer who turned informant in exchange for leniency after he was caught stealing $1 million worth of cocaine from a police evidence room.

Perez claimed that officers in the Rampart anti-gang squad known as CRASH had framed gang members, planted evidence, testified falsely and even shot innocent victims.

Perez was expected to be the prosecution's star witness until he demanded immunity from murder allegations — now recanted — made by an ex-lover. Jurors were already deliberating when Sonia Flores said she made up the story because Perez had spurned her.

Without Perez, prosecutors were forced to rely on a parade of gang members with credibility problems and police officers who said they knew little if anything about the charges.

The four officers faced charges that stem from three cases between March 1996 and April 1998.

In one incident, an officer was accused of planting a gun on a gang member. In another, an officer allegedly rubbed a gun on a suspect's hand to get his fingerprints and frame him. Prosecutors also said Liddy and Buchanan fabricated a story about gang members trying to run them down in order to arrest them.

Defense attorneys said prosecutors had framed their clients much like the Rampart unit had allegedly framed gang members.

The defense called only the defendants and one accident reconstruction expert. The final defense witness, Ortiz, said Rampart officers handled all cases the same way and did not single out gang members for tougher treatment.

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