By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
”And that‘s what you did?“
”And that’s what I did.“ Now, Flores says that‘s not what she did at all.
Clearly, both Flores and Ruben Rojas have their own agendas -- both have long ties to the Temple Street gang, and both have personal reason to seek vengeance against the rogue cop. As one attorney in the case observed of Rojas, ”He’s a pawn in a big game, and I don‘t know who’s moving the pieces.“ Yet their accounts are also intriguing. For more than a year, Perez was able to narrate the story of his corruption himself, contradicted only by the fellow cops he‘s accused of misconduct. Now Flores and Rojas have come forward to suggest even darker tones to the story.
The statements from Flores and Rojas surfaced in public view in September, put on the record by Art Goldberg, an Echo Park lawyer then representing Anthony Adams, one of those convicted in the McDonald’s shooting. Neither Flores nor Rojas would agree to an interview with the Weekly; this story is based on court documents and their interviews with investigators.
Already frazzled by nature, to judge from his rumpled suits and flyaway hair, Goldberg is sorely pressed for time these days, dividing his energy between his criminal law practice and his current campaign to succeed his sister Jackie on the L.A. City Council. But Goldberg will stop long enough to discuss how he flushed out this volatile new fuel for the long-smoldering Rampart story.
Goldberg said he first heard of Flores and her connection to Perez sometime late last year, through neighborhood contacts he‘d developed over years in criminal practice in the Rampart District. He mounted a vigorous attack on what he saw as Perez’s manipulation of Flores as a witness in his original writ, filed last January 28. In addition, Goldberg learned of Ruben Rojas‘ allegations when he briefly joined Greg Yates as co-counsel to Adams. Yates represents Rojas in civil proceedings against the city.
Still, Goldberg said he was surprised when he received a package last month containing D.A. transcripts of extended interviews with Rojas and Flores. He was even more stunned that there was no accompanying court order barring their release. ”I realized they had messed up,“ he said, especially when the D.A. scheduled a hearing for the next Monday to request an order keeping them secret.
Goldberg said he recognized instantly that, if they became public, the transcripts could alter the entire shape of the Rampart case, possibly leading to a new round of revelations and winning his client a new hearing. So he called the Times and invited reporters to publicize Flores’ and Rojas‘ statements. ”Every time you open stuff like this up, it all starts to come out!“ he declared with obvious glee.
The gambit paid off in court last week. For the first time since Rampart hit the headlines a year ago, Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler, who’s issued repeated ”protective orders“ barring public disclosure of investigative materials on Perez and his associates, dropped all restrictions on access to ”any new materials relating to Rafael Perez or David Mack.“
”Let the investigations begin,“ Fidler told an audience of more than a dozen representatives of the defense bar, including representatives of the public defender, as well as the district attorney, the city attorney and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Asked later what factors he thought finally forced the Flores commentaries to the surface, Goldberg said the ”internal struggle between the police and the district attorney“ had delayed the release, but could not do so indefinitely. After all, there was intense human drama at work. ”This statement really came out of her anger at being put down by Perez,“ Goldberg said of Flores‘ statement. ”It’s a woman scorned that really opened this whole thing up.“
The year 1996 found Rafael Perez 28 years old, THREE years into his second marriage -- to an LAPD dispatch operator -- and 10 months into the Rampart CRASH unit. a His assignment was Temple Street, a multiethnic gang of roughly 275 young men that ranged along the south side of Sunset Boulevard from Alvarado Street to Hoover Street.
That was the official version. Perez was, by his own account and according to Flores and Rojas, carrying on at the same time a multifaceted secret life. By her account, Flores was a big part of it. Although Perez insists he had sex with Flores just one time, she says they had an ongoing relationship, and her account is corroborated in part by a former roommate who told police investigators in September that Flores had openly discussed her boyfriend, and that she herself met Perez three times.
Flores says the relationship started in 1994, when Perez carded her as an underage patron at the Pan American nightclub, just a couple of blocks from the Rampart station. She was living with her brother in an apartment nearby, and quickly fell for the dark, handsome cop. Perez brought her by the crash pad he maintained with fellow officer Sammy Martin, and she became a regular visitor. Martin, she said, would take her aside and warn her against the pitfalls of entering a sexual relationship at such a young age, but she ignored him. She said she was in love.
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