LOS ANGELES — Corrupt ex-policeman Rafael Perez will remain in local custody because moving him to state prison would place him in potential danger, a judge ruled Friday.
Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry denied a prosecution request for the central figure in the Rampart police corruption case to be moved to prison to serve out his sentence for stealing cocaine from a police evidence room.
“Mr. Perez is in likely danger from all kinds of interests, and I’m most comfortable leaving him where he is,” Perry said. “I’m not gonna move him.”
Perez was not at the hearing. He is scheduled to be released in early June.
Prosecutors have said the convicted ex-cop-turned-informant whose confessions and accusations broke open the Rampart scandal is no longer needed for the investigation.
A Jan. 26 letter to the court from District Attorney Steve Cooley and Deputy District Attorney Richard Rosenthal said, “It no longer appears necessary or appropriate for Mr. Perez, as a sentenced state prison defendant, to remain in local custody.”
The move came after Perez’s attorney, Winston McKesson, told prosecutors his client “will not be made available to testify at continuing Board of Rights (hearings) or for further interviews until further notice,” according to the letter.
Board of Rights hearings are internal disciplinary proceedings of Los Angeles Police Department officers.
“There seems to be no further reason to keep him in local custody,” Rosenthal told the judge at the hearing. He should be sent to state prison like “any other felon,” the prosecutor said.
Perry denied the request after getting assurances from McKesson that his client would remain “ready and willing to cooperate” in court if required.
“We’re very pleased with the decision,” McKesson said. He declined further comment and would not say why Perez was no longer aiding the internal police investigation.
Perez became the central figure in the biggest Los Angeles Police Department scandal in decades after pleading guilty to stealing eight pounds of cocaine from a police evidence room. In exchange for a lighter sentence he agreed to tell prosecutors what he’d seen as an officer in an anti-gang unit in the department’s gritty Rampart Division near downtown.
He was sentenced a year ago and his statements about officers lying under oath and abusing innocent people helped lead to the suspension of dozens of officers, the overturning of about 100 tainted cases and the arrest of five officers.
It is not clear what Friday’s ruling will mean for Perez’s former partner, LAPD Officer Nino Durden, who is scheduled to go on trial later this year on charges of attempted murder. He faces the most serious charges in the ongoing Rampart investigation.
Joseph Scott, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, declined to comment on the case against Durden.
One officer was acquitted and three, Sgts. Edward Ortiz and Brian Liddy and Officer Michael Buchanan, were convicted in November of framing gang members. However, their convictions were overturned by a judge; the district attorney’s office is appealing that decision.
But Perez has become increasingly problematic for county prosecutors.
The trial of the four officers was overshadowed by murder accusations against Perez lodged by a former girlfriend. The woman later recanted, saying she was trying to get back at Perez for jilting her. But the prosecution never called Perez to testify.
While incarcerated, Perez has bragged about “making stuff up” to get back at cops he did not like and about landing a book or movie deal, according to jail informants.
His role as an informant has grown even more strained recently after federal prosecutors concluded that the immunity deal he reached with the district attorney did not protect him from federal prosecution.
Federal prosecutors concluded that despite an immunity deal, Perez could be charged with crimes for his admitted participation in unjustified shootings, robberies and the framing of innocent people, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Both sides in the case have declined to comment on that report.
Although some of those offenses are not covered under federal statutes, the laws do address such crimes as civil rights violations, including the intentional use of excessive force by police.
If prosecuted, Perez faces the possibility of many more years behind bars.