From the Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles judge drops Hollywood drug case after video contradicts police testimony
In echoes of Rampart scandal, defense attorney says officers planted cocaine on man accused of being a gang member. On surveillance tape produced at trial, one officer tells another: 'Be creative in your writing.'
By Jack Leonard
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 1, 2008
A Los Angeles judge abruptly ended a trial and exonerated a man of possessing cocaine Monday after a courtroom confrontation in which a defense attorney produced a surprise video of his client's arrest that sharply contradicted the testimony of two police officers.
Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner dismissed charges against Guillermo Alarcon Jr., a grocery store worker, after prosecutors reviewed the tape and acknowledged that it was inconsistent with the officers' sworn testimony.
Los Angeles Police Department officials said they had launched an internal affairs investigation of the officers. Additionally, prosecutors said they would refer the matter to a division within the Los Angeles County district attorney's office that investigates police misconduct cases.
During the trial, which began Friday, the officers told jurors that they had chased Alarcon, 29, into his Hollywood apartment building last year and seen him throw away a black object. They testified that one of the officers picked up the object a few feet from where Alarcon was standing and discovered powder and crack cocaine inside.
But footage from the grainy video, which Alarcon's attorney said came from an apartment building surveillance camera, shows that it took the two officers more than 20 minutes to find the drugs. They were also aided by other officers in their search.
The quality of the tape, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, is poor and it is difficult to clearly hear what is being said. But at one point, an officer seems to make a reference to the arrest report that needed to be filled out.
"Be creative in your writing," the officer appears to tell another after the discovery.
"Oh yeah, don't worry, sin duda [no doubt]," comes the reply.
In allegations echoing misconduct from the Rampart corruption scandal of the late 1990s, Deputy Public Defender Victor Acevedo said the cocaine was not Alarcon's and described the prosecution's case as "completely trumped up."
"They have two officers who came into court and blatantly lied and planted evidence," he told Bachner on Monday.
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