By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The dire characterization of the militia threat, in turn, helped persuade the same police commissioners and the City Council to decide in 1996 to substantially loosen the guidelines governing the activities of the ATD. Even so, those guidelines require a reasonable suspicion that a group be planning criminal activity before officers may investigate. The lawsuits contend that, when it came to the SCMA, the ATD had no basis for such an investigation. After it arrested the men, the ATD said its investigation was the first under the loosened guidelines and couldn’t have been conducted under the old rules.
The new guidelines continue a requirement that the Police Commission monitor the ATD. A recently released commission audit of the unit’s activities during 1996-97, the period when it infiltrated the SCMA, said the ATD had carried out no improper investigations. But commission staffer Clifford Weiss, who conducted the audit, told the Weeklythat because of the litigation, he was told to put "information about the militia case in a confidential version of the audit."
In fact, Weiss said, neither the Police Commission nor the City Council has yet seen his report on the SCMA investigation. He said the commission will soon — in closed session, because the report deals with undercover operations. The commission considered settlement of the lawsuits during a closed session before Christmas, then sent its recommendations on to the council.
Weiss said the commission would "not necessarily" pass along his confidential audit to the City Council. In the past, Weiss said, "There were courtesy copies [of ATD audits] given to the Public Safety Committee," but there’s no requirement to do so.
The plaintiffs and their attorneys say that Stice lied repeatedly about the weapons used or owned by members of the group. They also say the ATD officers swore to these lies in order to obtain search warrants. Alvin Ung recently petitioned the judge presiding over his San Bernardino case for access to personnel records to help him prove that Stice, Sergeant Glynn Martin and officer Michael O’Brien made "misstatements" in police reports. Ung’s motion is set for hearing on January 29.
In addition, the affidavits for the search warrants served in the case mischaracterize Stice himself. The officer is identified as a "reliable confidential informant" who had infiltrated right-wing groups and helped bring off previous arrests — not as a member of the LAPD. It’s a crucial distinction, say civil rights attorneys.
At court hearings, officials identified Stice as an LAPD officer, but they repeatedly thwarted defense attorneys’ efforts to learn his identity and get him into a courtroom. At one hearing, when an attorney cross-examining ATD Sergeant Martin asked about Steich," the name officials had given him, Martin said, "I don’t know anybody by that name." After the judge intervened and the defense lawyer mentioned "prosecutorial misconduct" and "misrepresentations," Martin volunteered that it was "a spelling and pronunciation issue," then gave the correct spelling.
Doubts about Stice’s affiliation resurfaced when attorneys trying to serve papers on him learned he wasn’t listed on the LAPD’s personnel roster. His ties to the department were confirmed only after a Weeklyreporter visited Stice at his suburban home earlier this month. The next day, an LAPD spokesperson phoned a Weeklyeditor to express concern that the paper might reveal the address of "a member of our department." Stice would not comment on his activities as Andrew Nelson.
Weiss, of the Police Commission staff, said he couldn’t comment on Stice’s ghost status or on the cops’ description of him as an informant. Two sources with direct knowledge of the LAPD’s operations told the Weeklythat the department routinely keeps some of its officers off the books.
In their lawsuits and in interviews, the SCMA plaintiffs also complained of more prosaic misconduct. In an earlier report, the Weeklydetailed how the prosecution withheld evidence of the investigation as "not relevant," but trotted it out selectively to justify stiff charges and sentences. The plaintiffs, their defense attorneys and other sources with inside knowledge say these statements — plus judges’ unwillingness to second-guess allegations of terrorism — resulted in a string of unfavorable rulings and sentences.
When Yee entered his plea, the prosecutor told the judge that the district attorney had agreed with the police and city attorney to withhold certain investigative records. Yee and Swanson included with their pleas statements that they’d withdraw them if they obtained the evidence they’d been denied. The Weeklyhas learned that deputy D.A.s in at least two cases threatened to introduce additional charges unless the defendants plea-bargained by a certain date.
When contacted, a spokesperson for the D.A.’s Office claimed not to know about the lawsuits or their settlement, even though District Attorney Gil Garcetti and several of his lieutenants were named defendants.
Yee’s defense attorney, Chuck Michel, said the State Court of Appeals has agreed to hear Yee’s appeal of his sentence. After he pleaded to a negotiated misdemeanor, plaintiff Tim Swanson complained to the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau about the conduct of the ATD investigation. He said that after he heard nothing from the bureau, he took his complaint to police Inspector General Katherine Mader, but was informed that she was not allowed to investigate the case.