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LAPD officers lied under oath in drug probe, jury finds

November 13, 2012 |  4:48 pm

Two Los Angeles Police Department officers lied under oath during a drug possession case five years ago, a jury found Tuesday.

Officer Richard Amio and former Officer Evan Samuel were each found guilty of perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Samuel and Amio showed no reaction as the verdict was read.  The jury deadlocked over perjury and conspiracy charges against a third officer, Manuel Ortiz, and the judge declared a mistrial on those charges. 

The trial revolved around competing interpretations of a grainy, black-and-white video that captured multiple officers at an East Hollywood apartment building the night a suspected gang member was arrested on drug charges.

The video, the prosecution argued, sharply contradicted sworn testimony from the three officers regarding how, where and when a small black box allegedly containing cocaine was recovered during Guillermo Alarcon Jr.’s 2007 arrest.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Geoffrey Rendon told jurors last week that the officers conspired to deliver Alarcon to the court system “based on a set of lies.”

But, Rendon continued, “the video doesn’t lie.”

Amio and Samuel testified in 2008 that while on patrol the previous year, they recognized Alarcon in front of his East Hollywood apartment. The two officers said they chased him into the building’s carport, where he threw a small black box against a dumpster. As it hit the ground, they said the object cracked open and Samuel picked it up. Inside, they testified, he found rock and powder cocaine.

But in the video--which begins after Alarcon is in custody--officers search for more than 20 minutes before finding an object that prosecutors contended held the cocaine.

After the prolonged searched, officers also appear to discuss opening the object. They later said it contained cocaine.

But defense attorneys argued the video doesn’t capture the whole story.

Attorney Ira Salzman, who represents Samuel, told jurors last week that the officers already had recovered the drugs when the video begins.

“The evidence was already obtained and there is nothing that refutes that,” he told jurors during his closing argument.

The officers, the defense argued, were simply looking for additional evidence, and the object recovered in the video was a broken-off piece of the black box recovered earlier.

Last week, Rendon focused on one portion of the tape to make the case for conspiracy.

“Be creative in your writing,” an officer says, apparently alluding to an arrest report that would be written.

“Oh yeah, don't worry, no doubt,” comes the reply.

At one point, officers credit “Manny” with finding the object. At an early court hearing during Alarcon’s drug charge case, Ortiz testified he did not assist Samuel and Amio in the search for the drugs.

In 2008, a judge declared Alarcon factually innocent after his public defender played the video in court.

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 --Andrew Khouri

 

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