Defendant files claim over L.A. officers’ testimony
A man whose drug possession trial abruptly ended when a videotape of his arrest sharply contradicted the testimony of two police officers filed a legal claim Monday against the city of Los Angeles, his attorney said.
Guillermo Alarcon Jr., 29, whose trial was brought to a halt last month when his criminal-defense attorney produced the surprise video in court, alleged in his claim that he was falsely arrested, that the officers planted drugs on him and that they perjured themselves in court.
A legal claim filed with the city is generally a precursor to a civil lawsuit.
Luis A. Carrillo, Alarcon’s civil attorney, said Monday that he had asked the FBI in a letter to investigate the two officers who testified at the trial and a third who testified at an earlier court hearing.
Carrillo accused the Los Angeles Police Department of failing to properly investigate the alleged misconduct, saying that when internal affairs detectives questioned Alarcon’s wife, they seemed more interested in getting her to implicate her husband in drug sales than in investigating police misconduct.
“I don’t believe internal affairs is really searching for the truth,” Carrillo said at a news conference in front of police headquarters downtown.
Carrillo said his client would not cooperate with the LAPD but would assist the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which also investigates police misconduct cases.
“I think their badges should be taken away and they should be prosecuted,” Alarcon said of the officers.
LAPD Cmdr. Richard Webb, who oversees the department’s internal affairs group, said his investigators were taking the allegations against the officers seriously.
“We are going to do a very thorough investigation,” he said, adding that privacy laws prevented him from talking about details of the probe. “Our intent is to make sure that no questions are left unanswered.”
Last month, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner dismissed charges against Alarcon and declared him innocent after prosecutors reviewed the tape and acknowledged that it was inconsistent with the officers’ sworn testimony.
The tape came from an apartment building surveillance camera that Alarcon’s sister had turned on.
A lawyer representing two of the officers -- Manuel Ortiz and Evan Samuel, who now works in Chino -- noted that prosecutors believed that about 13 seconds of audio had been edited out. He said his clients denied wrongdoing.
“Certainly, there was not any planting of evidence,” said attorney Ira Salzman. “There wasn’t any intent to produce any false testimony whatsoever.”
An attorney representing the third officer, Richard Amio, could not be reached for comment.
During the trial, Samuel and Amio told jurors that they had chased Alarcon into his Hollywood apartment building last year and saw him throw away a black object. They testified that one of the officers picked up the object a few feet from where Alarcon was standing and found powder and crack cocaine inside.
But footage from the grainy video showed that it took the two officers more than 20 minutes to find the drugs. They were also aided by other officers in their search.
The quality of the tape, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, is poor, and it is difficult to clearly hear what is being said. But at one point, an officer seemed to make a reference to the arrest report that needed to be filled out.
“Be creative in your writing,” the officer appears to tell another after the discovery.
“Oh yeah, don’t worry, [no doubt],” comes the reply.
Alarcon’s defense attorney argued that another reply suggested that officers had planted evidence on another suspect in a prior case. Times reporters examined the tape but were unable to clearly hear what was said because of the poor quality of the recording.