An attorney for a man who accused two Los Angeles police officers of lying about his arrest and trying to frame him blasted a judge's decision on Tuesday not to jail the officers.
Los Angeles County Deputy Public Defender Victor Acevedo said the former LAPD partners should have been incarcerated after a jury found them guilty of perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice in a 2008 case against his client.
Acevedo described Judge Michael E. Pastor's decision on Tuesday to sentence each officer to hundreds of hours of community labor as "way too lenient."
"Do you know what this tells every potentially corrupt police officer? That you get a freebie, that you get a pass," Acevedo said. "What all officers should be on notice of is that if they are found to commit this kind of corruption, they are going to prison."
Evan Samuel, 41, was sentenced Tuesday to perform 750 hours of community labor while Richard Amio, 34, was ordered to perform 500 hours.
Acevedo said they should have been sentenced to at least two years in prison -- the amount that his client was offered by the district attorney's office after he was charged with drug possession for sale based on the reports of the officers.
The drug trial ended dramatically when Acevedo produced grainy surveillance video of the area where the arrest took place showing a group of officers searching for more than 20 minutes before one announces that drugs have been found.
The officers had claimed that they immediately found the drugs after seeing Acevedo's client, Guillermo Alarcon Jr., throw an object as he ran from police.
Acevedo argued that the drugs were not his client's and might have been planted by police. After viewing the videotape, a judge dismissed the charges against Alarcon and took the unusual step of declaring him factually innocent.
"That is a ridiculously un-called for sentence," Acevedo said about Tuesday's court hearing. "It sends the wrong signal to the public when you have a judge essentially bend over backwards to show leniency to individuals who because of their corrupt actions put an innocent man at risk of spending two years in prison."
Pastor described his sentencing decision as among the most difficult a judge could face. The judge called the officers' conduct "regrettably shameful" but said he also took into account the careers and lives they had led.
Samuel had faced a maximum sentence of more than seven years behind bars while Amio faced more than six years.
The district attorney's office had sought a minimum sentence of three years for both men, arguing in court papers that "the lies told throughout their reports and testimony ... were deliberate and malicious and constituted a sophisticated attempt to derail the administration of justice."
Jurors found Samuel and Amio guilty of one count of conspiracy each and multiple counts of perjury.
Amio, 34, is on administrative leave from the LAPD. His disciplinary case was put on hold while his criminal case was pending.
Samuel, 41, joined the LAPD in 2002 and left for the Chino Police Department in 2008. He was fired while on probation in Chino after The Times reported on Alarcon's drug case.
The same jury deadlocked on conspiracy charges against Ortiz, voting 11 to 1 in favor of guilt. The district attorney's office has announced that prosecutors intend to retry Ortiz, who is also on administrative leave.