Judge: Rafael Perez to remain in L.A. county jail facility
[Los Angeles County, CA]

By Terri Vermeulen Keith February 2, 2001, Friday

(LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Calif.) -- Citing safety concerns, a judge today denied the prosecution's request to move disgraced former LAPD Officer Rafael Perez from a Southland jail facility to state prison.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry said he is more ''comfortable'' leaving Perez at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, where he is serving a five-year term for stealing eight pounds of cocaine from an LAPD evidence room.

''My perception is that Mr. Perez is ... in likely danger,'' the judge said, in an apparent reference to state prison. ''I can imagine all kinds of interests ... I'm not going to move him.''

Perez, 33, was not in court for the brief hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Richard Rosenthal told the judge there ''seems to be absolutely no reason'' to keep Perez in local custody, and asked that he be sent to a state prison facility.

In a letter to the judge, the prosecutor noted that because of representations made by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Perez's attorney has said he ''will not be made available to testify at continuing (LAPD) Boards of Rights (hearings) or for further interviews until further notice.''

The judge had issued an order last Feb. 25 requiring the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to maintain local custody of Perez, who agreed to cooperate with investigators in exchange for a lighter sentence.

''This order was requested based on a perceived need to maintain Mr. Perez within the Los Angeles County area for purposes of continued debriefings and to (testify) at Los Angeles Police Department Boards of Rights (hearings),'' Rosenthal wrote in a letter to the judge.

Based in part on allegations of corruption by Perez, more than 100 criminal cases were overturned and five officers were charged with criminal wrongdoing, including his former partner, Nino Durden.

Perez was not called as a prosecution witness during the recent trial of the first four LAPD officers to be charged in connection with his allegations of corruption in the Rampart division, where he had worked.

Attorney Winston Kevin McKesson informed prosecutors in that case that Perez would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination if they questioned him about a former lover's allegations that he and a former partner killed two people and dumped their bodies in Tijuana.

The woman, Sonya Flores, later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Three of the four officers -- Sgts. Brian Liddy and Edward Ortiz and Michael Buchanan -- were found guilty in November of corruption charges, but a judge overturned their convictions the following month.

A fourth, Paul Harper, was acquitted of all charges.

Durden is still awaiting trial on the most serious criminal charges to result from the Rampart scandal. He is accused of attempted murder, along with other charges stemming from a shooting that left gang member Javier Ovando paralyzed.

Following today's hearing, Perez's lawyer said he was ''very pleased with the (judge's) decision. Other than that, we have no comment.''

Perez is expected to be released from custody in early June, the prosecutor said.

While being housed at the Century facility last November, Perez suffered what authorities called ''minor injuries'' during a scuffle with two inmates over what TV show to watch.

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