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2 L.A. sheriff's deputies acquitted of perjury, conspiracy in drug bust

Two L.A. County sheriff's deputies acquitted of perjury, conspiracy charges stemming from 2011 drug bust

A jury Thursday acquitted two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies of perjury and conspiracy charges stemming from a 2011 drug bust at a bar in Huntington Park.

During the trial, a prosecutor told jurors that the case against Robert Lindsey and Charles Rodriguez was pursued after surveillance video from Durango Bar contradicted details in Lindsey's arrest report.

Jurors deliberated for less than a day before finding Lindsey, 33, not guilty of filing a false police report and Rodriguez, 40, not guilty of being an accessory after the fact. Both deputies were also found not guilty of conspiracy in connection with the June 3, 2011, drug bust.

"Right now I am on cloud nine," Rodriguez said after the verdict.

Although it's frustrating to know he'll never get back the years he lost — both officers were relieved of duty without pay in April 2013 — Rodriguez said he felt vindicated and was eager to clear his name.

"This just wasn't right," he said.

Rodriguez's attorney, James E. Blatt, criticized the Los Angeles County district attorney's office for filing the case, calling the move "very destructive to the criminal justice system."

Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, declined to comment on the acquittal.

For Lindsey, the last few years were "a terrible experience," he said, adding that he was grateful that the trial gave him a chance to speak publicly about the case.

"This was the first time anyone had heard any kind of truth," he said.

After the verdict was read, Lindsey said, all the jurors and alternate jurors approached him and Rodriguez to thank them for their service.

"It was extremely humbling," he said. "We were blessed to have a jury that listened to the facts."

Brian Moriguchi, president of the L.A. County Professional Peace Officers Assn., which represents Sheriff's Department supervisors, praised the jury's decision and said he felt bad for Rodriguez and Lindsey, who "had their lives turned over."

"We are glad to see that the jury was not political and they based their decision on the facts before them," Moriguchi said.

The charges were filed after Lindsey wrote an arrest report in which he said an informant had told the deputies that a man named "Abraham" sold cocaine in the parking lot of Durango Bar.

The report said that the deputies saw a man matching the description of "Abraham" standing near a Lexus SUV and that Lindsey walked up to him, looked inside the vehicle and saw a plastic bag of "white powder cocaine in the air vent under the car stereo." Lindsey wrote that he took the man into custody on suspicion of narcotics possession and searched the car.

During the trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Gretchen Ford argued that Lindsey lied in the arrest report to justify his search of the vehicle.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said that once the criminal case has concluded, the department will "proceed with the internal administrative investigation to look into any potential policy violations."

marisa.gerber@latimes.com
Twitter: @marisagerber

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