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
According to Flores, she was hanging around the McDonald‘s for hours that afternoon and saw the whole episode unfold. She said she noticed one Temple Street associate -- the man who ran the local racket in fake IDs -- was looking ”nervous,“ and when she inquired why, he told her the Eme was expected to show up. Soon after, she said, a Temple Street gang member approached her and ”asked if I had seen some guys . . . the guys from the Mexican Mafia.“ Flores said she had prior knowledge that this gangster was plotting against the rent collector, and spent two hours beforehand trying to dissuade him. Then, she said, she called Perez to warn him of trouble brewing but was unable to reach him.
The plot thus in motion, Flores said the gangster left the McDonald’s and took up a position in a nearby apartment building -- at one point, she said, in the bushes, at another, in a window -- providing a narrow vantage looking through the trellis beams onto the patio tables. Soon after, Malfavon drove up in a beige Mercury sedan, walked to the patio with an associate and sat at a table with two Temple Street regulars called ”Coco“ and ”Porky.“
Then the shooting started. Malfavon was struck several times the fatal shot was to the head, apparently from a high-powered rifle fired from the neighboring apartment building. Flores and two other witnesses also testified that they saw somebody on the patio draw a gun and begin shooting -- one witness said northbound, toward the tan Mercury, or toward the apartment building. The crew from Temple Street then jumped into a van and fled.
Rafael Perez and other Rampart officers arrived at the scene in less than two minutes. Since the blood on her dress made her a material witness, Flores was initially grabbed, handcuffed and placed in a squad car by Officer Robert Arcos. In the end, she was the only witness who said she could identify the gang members at the scene. She made a brief statement to Arcos, saying Temple Street gangsters were behind the shooting, but named none of them.
Perez and partner Sammy Martin stepped in immediately, took the cuffs off Flores and drove her to the Rampart detective‘s station, where the CRASH unit was headquartered at Third Street and Union Avenue. There Perez conducted a detailed interview, providing her with photos from the CRASH gang book and eliciting several identifications. Later that evening, having thus been prompted, Flores was finally interviewed on tape, with Perez, Martin and two detectives. At that time she named four gangbangers by their monikers -- ”Blackie,“ ”Coco,“ ”Porky“ and ”Demon.“ Blackie, she said, was the gangbanger with the grudge, the one who shot from the apartment building.
It was a sloppy round of identifications. Blackie was indeed a Temple Street gangbanger, but in the space of two weeks, his name disappeared from the record of the case. In his place, as the shooter and the Temple Street member with the grudge against Malfavon, Flores named Anthony Adams -- Goldberg’s client -- who went by the street name ”Stymie.“ Further, it turned out that Demon, the moniker for a Temple Streeter named Geovany Velasquez, could not have been on the scene because Velasquez was in prison at the time. Lastly, the Coco she selected was not the same person known on the street as Coco.
The detectives investigating the case met with Flores two days later. They had learned Velasquez was in jail. By the end of the interview, Demon was replaced by Dracky, whose real name is Jesse Alvarez, who had an alibi -- three witnesses who could place him well away from the scene, according to his attorney, Javier Ramirez.
Sometime thereafter -- it‘s not clear when -- Blackie was replaced by Anthony Adams. The first reference in the record to Stymie is in a typed follow-up report composed by Perez, March 9, and purporting to reconstruct his initial interview with Flores. There was no tape of that meeting, and Perez took no notes. To attorney Goldberg, this was Perez’s brazen -- and successful -- bid to frame Adams.
The confused identifications showed up in the LAPD‘s own record and became an issue when the case reached a preliminary hearing in June of 1996. Three defense attorneys grilled Flores and Perez on their shaky and shifting identifications. But Perez was a practiced witness, and Superior Court Judge Glenette Blackwell bound the case over for trial. A fifth defendant, Cesar Menendez, was added to the case in August 1996, on the strength of fingerprints placing him at the scene. Menendez joined in the guilty plea in December 1997. His attorney says Menendez is innocent.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Grace then went to work. All five defendants faced murder charges that could land them in jail for life. The alternative was to plead guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter, meaning they would be sentenced to 12 years in prison. To Andrew Stein, an attorney now representing Jorge ”Porky“ Alvarez, the evidence presented never warranted a conviction for his client. ”The case casts horrible aspersions on the entire criminal justice system.“ Stein points out that Alvarez had never before been arrested, and agreed to plead only under the coercive terms of the deal. ”The federal government doesn’t allow packaged deals for just that reason.“
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