How to Bury A Scandal 

Rafael Perez has come and gone but Chief Parks remains unmoved

Wednesday, Aug 1 2001

Page 3 of 5

With the investigation hopelessly stalled, with Chief Parks asserting that his department had “located” the Rampart scandal and “brought it to an end,” the question remains: What the hell happened at Rampart? Was Perez lying all along?

Defense attorneys for the police answer with an emphatic yes. The late Barry Levin, attorney for former Rampart Sergeant Edward Ortiz and himself a former cop, made the argument before a superior court jury last October. “Perez lied to the prosecutors, and he lied to the court,” Levin said. “Perez knew he needed immunity . . . so he concocted a pipe dream of a scandal on the backs of these fine officers.”

But that argument is refuted by the man who struck the deal. Speaking in his downtown office the week before his transfer to Van Nuys, Richard Rosenthal described the circumstances that led to Perez’s confession.

Related Stories

  • Chief No Show? 2

    An African American anti-crime organization says Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck has pulled out of a scheduled meeting at a time when homicides have seen an uptick and there are concerns in the black community regarding racially insensitive comments made by LAPD Det. Frank Lyga. See also: LAPD Det. Frank Lyga Taken...
  • Det. Frank Lyga Sent Home by LAPD Following Racially Charged Comments 4

    The Los Angeles Police Department today sent Det. Frank Lyga home with pay after "new information ... came to the attention of the chief of police," Commander Andrew Smith told the Weekly. The longtime detective was relieved of duty but will still collect his pay check until at least 30...
  • A Cop's Killing

    Controversial Det. Frank Lyga said he once threatened to reveal to the media that his 1997 shooting of fellow cop Kevin Gaines was "a sanction hit on Gaines by LAPD," according to a memo purported to be written by an officer to Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger regarding a talk...
  • Another Body 2

    Los Angeles police this week again asked for the public's help in identifying a woman whose remains were found at a recycling center in 2010. The right tip could earn $50,000 in reward money. "Based on how she was disposed, we do believe it was a homicide," Los Angeles Police...
  • First a Selfie

    Don't know about you, but it seems to us the but first a selfie meme is being taken to the extreme by some young people these days. (As in, Yeah, we're about to get arrested ... but first a selfie). In this case, a young woman is caught on security...

Rosenthal first tried Perez on drug charges in December 1998. When the jury failed to reach a verdict, the D.A. re-filed the case, and in April 1999, a grand jury answered with a new indictment. The following month, Rosenthal offered to deal with Perez attorney Winston Kevin McKesson. McKesson, in turn, made a proffer: In return for a reduced sentence, Perez would divulge all he knew about a single case of misconduct by the Rampart gang squad. “One instance of unlawful use-of-force involving three officers and a sergeant,” Rosenthal said —which turned out to be the fatal police raid on a gang wake at Shatto Place.

Rosenthal agreed to deal, but his terms included the standard stipulation, that Perez could still be prosecuted for any instances of homicide or infliction of great bodily injury. What Rosenthal, and apparently McKesson, didn’t realize was that Perez had been involved in just such a case — the shooting, with his partner Nino Durden, of Javier Ovando.

When the lawyer took Rosenthal’s terms back to Perez, they met only silence, a clear indication there was a problem. “McKesson backed off,” Rosenthal said, and the deal languished until the new trial got under way in September.

The day that trial convened, Rosenthal said, two remarkable events took place. The first happened when L.A. Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry stepped in “out of the blue,” as Rosenthal put it, and offered Perez a seven-year sentence in return for a guilty plea, regardless of whether he cooperated. Which meant, assuming half-time credit for good behavior, that “By cooperating he got one year off his prison term, and that’s it,” Rosenthal explained.

Perry’s offer left Rosenthal little with which to entice the accused officer, other than the chance to avoid the anguish of another trial. For Perez and his attorney, the decision to cooperate on other investigations was a virtual toss-up. But Rosenthal had another surprise in store. At noon of the first day, with jury selection under way, McKesson approached the prosecutor, draped an arm over his shoulder and asked if they might again discuss the deal. This time, the topic was Ovando.

Over the lunch break, McKesson sketched in the details. Perez had not followed through on the original deal offer, the lawyer explained, because there was, in fact, an incident of “great bodily injury.” The victim, a member of the 18th Street gang, was unarmed when he was cornered by Perez and Durden in an abandoned apartment. The officers shot him three times, then planted a gun on him. Later, they testified falsely that Javier Ovando had pulled a gun on them, and finally, they saw him sentenced to 23 years.

Rosenthal said he decided immediately to grant Perez immunity and pursue a habeas corpus filing in order to spring Ovando from prison. “It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see this was an explosive case,” Rosenthal said.

And it was more than enough, Rosenthal said, to earn Perez a deal for a five-year sentence, especially after Judge Perry had reduced the maximum term to seven. “If he gave us Ovando and Shatto Place, that would have been it.”

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets