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
According to the computer log, it wasn't until five minutes later -- the opposite of the sequence reported by the officers -- that a call of "shots fired" was recorded. Indeed, Holtz regards the call itself as suspiciously sketchy: The log reports only √§ "five male Hispanics shooting," with no further details, as the caller hung up.
To Holtz, the computer notice to call Rampart was the "red flag" that set in motion the made-up case. She believes the officers made the call, learned that the Ford was registered to a member of the 18th Street gang -- though not Oliva -- and moved into gang-enforcement mode and began plotting their conspiracy.
The MDT log is silent on the Olympic Boulevard stakeout that purportedly lasted for close to an hour, and then records a remarkable exchange. Officer Calleros first sets up a meeting with a second squad car. Then he reports to his sergeant that "We found a car round the corner that has its windows down and a TEC-9 on the passenger floorboard" -- once again contradicting the written police report, which said the windows were up.
The sergeant responds moments later with urgent instructions. "Whatever you do, take possession of the gun first . . . Take it and secure it in your trunk, then sit on the car and grab anyone who gets in."
That would sound like reasonable advice, if there were actually a gun lying next to an open window. But no weapon was ever recovered, and nobody was arrested at the scene. To Holtz, the only smoking gun in the case was the computer log -- evidence of police conspiring to invent a charge against her client. She says the Montero was never involved in a chase, and that the accounts in the two police reports were invented to frame Oliva. "This is bullshit," she fumed during an interview. "The officers had a meeting. They set my guy up."
At a February 14 court hearing, the District Attorney's Office agreed. Appearing before Judge William Fahey, Deputy District Attorney Dennis Fuhrman said the prosecution could not proceed. "It pains and saddens me that I have to come before this court and move that this pending case be dismissed." The statement echoed the lament repeated a hundred times by prosecutors in cases thrown out based on the confessions of admitted rogue cop Rafael Perez -- but this incident took place two years after Perez was off the force.
Contacted by the Weekly, Fuhrman declined to discuss the case, but he alluded in court to "serious credibility issues." He also acknowledged Holtz "for her willingness to provide us with additional information . . . that we looked at and compared with information that we had that led us to this conclusion" -- the MDT log.
THE PHANTOM AUTO ASSAULT ON Olympic Boulevard is the second time the LAPD bungled an attempt to jail Oliva on fabricated charges. The first stems from his initial run-in with the Rampart gang unit in September 1995.
That encounter began as a simple case of bad timing: Oliva had the misfortune to be on the street in the hours after the tires had been slashed on CRASH Officer Brian Hewitt's car. More than a dozen officers fanned out to wreak a little vengeance. When they found Oliva, he was seated in his wheelchair, but he got the same beating as any other gangbanger that night.
Word of the abuse soon reached Rampart Captain Nick Salicos. In a deposition, Salicos made a rare admission: "It was unit misconduct. I realized we had a major issue to deal with."
Oliva filed a personnel complaint that landed on the desk of Bernard Parks, then deputy chief in charge of internal affairs. It languished for more than two years, and was resolved only after the department statute for charges of misconduct had expired -- thus forming the basis for the claim in Oliva's civil suit that the LAPD brass tolerated misconduct at Rampart.
In the meantime, in December 1995, another Rampart officer arrested Oliva and jailed him for five days for driving a stolen vehicle. He went free when the car's owner insisted he had permission to drive it. A month later, Oliva was jailed again on the extraordinary charge that police had found 55 cocaine "rocks" when he was searched after the December arrest. The arresting officer and the D.A. offered no explanation for the lapse between the original arrest and the drug charges being filed, or why Oliva was released in the first place.
Oliva maintained from the start that he was being framed. His lawyers at the time, deputy public defenders Gregory McCambridge and Raunda Frank, agree. "We feel this was a case of retaliation," said Frank in a recent interview. In fact, Frank said she is continuing to investigate the circumstances of the 1996 arrest through the Public Integrity Assurance Section, a new division of the Public Defender's Office devoted to reviewing thousands of tainted Rampart cases. She said the LAPD and the District Attorney's Office continue to rebuff her efforts to obtain witness statements and a 113-page Internal Affairs report on the drug arrest. "It's very frustrating," Frank said.