Two cops planted guns inside a medical marijuana dispensary in South L.A. to justify an arrest, the L.A. County District Attorney alleged in an announcement made today.
Those two L.A. County Sheriff's deputies are no longer with that department, but sheriff's officials wouldn't yet say precisely what happened to them. The alleged incident occurred on Aug. 24, 2011, prosecutors said.
Dispensary security video of at least some of the action appears to be what authorities are using against the suspects:
The deputies were ID'd as Julio Cesar Martinez, 39, and Anthony Manuel Paez, 32. They were charged with “one felony count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice and peace officer altering evidence,” according to a D.A.'s statement.
Martinez was also hit with two counts of perjury and one count of filing a false police report, prosecutors said.
The two said they witnessed a drug deal on West 84th Street and that one of the suspects in the transaction had a gun, according to a D.A.'s statement:
Martinez said he followed one suspect inside a medical marijuana dispensary where he discovered a discarded firearm near a trash bin and another firearm on top of a desk next to ecstasy pills.
On that basis the cops arrested two men, one for allegedly having an unregistered firearm and another for holding drugs while also possessing a firearm, prosecutors said.
But an internal sheriff's investigation in 2012 found that video from the dispensary “was inconsistent with statements made by the deputies in their reports,” the D.A.'s statement says.
Keep in mind that police have been known to attempt to destroy video cameras during raids. This case probably won't deter them.
Martinez and Paez were booked in lieu of $50,000 bail and released last week, prosecutors said. Arraignment was set for June 17.
Both could face more than seven years behind bars if convicted.
[Update at 4:04 p.m.]: The L.A. County Sheriff's Department weighed in on the pair's employment with the department:
Julio Cesar Martinez and Anthony Manuel Paez separated from the Sheriff's Department on February 27, 2013. There was an administrative investigation where the appropriate administrative action was taken.
Martinez was a 15-year veteran of the Department and Paez was a 7-year veteran.