In a development that could result in the suppression of a key piece of evidence in a criminal case against Los Angeles police officers in the so-called "39th and Dalton Incident," a former police supervisor testified Tuesday that he improperly agreed to distort a report to reward an officer for disclosing where the evidence was hidden.
According to testimony by Enrique Hernandez, Officer Charles Wilson was told that "things would go badly" for him if he refused to cooperate with investigators looking into the possibility that officers--rather than gang members, as police contended--had nearly demolished four residences on Aug. 1, 1988, while ostensibly looking for drugs.
Hernandez also testified at the evidentiary hearing that Wilson was told he had no choice but to tell police internal affairs investigators where he had hidden a battering ram allegedly used to do much of the damage because he had to obey orders from higher ranking officers.
Hernandez's testimony was an attempt by Wilson's lawyer to show that his client was coerced into turning over the ram. The lawyer said that such coercion would be improper and Municipal Judge Larry Paul Fidler would have to withhold knowledge of the ram's existence from the jury in the upcoming trial of Wilson and three colleagues.
The prosecution believes the ram is the strongest evidence linking police to the damage.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Darden, during his questioning of Hernandez, tried to show that the former lieutenant's testimony cannot be trusted because he practices law with a lawyer who represents one of Wilson's co-defendants.
During the hearing, Darden played for Fidler a tape of an interview of Hernandez with police internal affairs investigators a month after the raids in the 3900 block of Dalton Avenue.
In that interview, Hernandez did not mention as he did Tuesday that he promised Wilson, in exchange for his cooperation, that a police report would omit the fact that Wilson "had to be talked into giving up the ram."
Wilson and the other three officers are the only members of the LAPD against whom criminal charges have been filed, even though more than 80 officers took part in the raid and 38 of them subsequently were ordered by the Police Department to face disciplinary actions.
Wilson along with Capt. Thomas D. Elfmont, Sgt. Charles (Ted) Spicer and Officer Todd Parrick are charged with misdemeanor vandalism and conspiracy to commit vandalism. Wilson also is charged with obstructing and delaying the police investigation because he allegedly stashed the homemade, hand-held battering ram in a manhole after learning that the raid would be investigated.
The hearing on the admissibility of the ram is scheduled to resume today with a ruling by Fidler likely before the end of the day.