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Roberto Candido

Summary of Rampart Scandal
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Roberto Candido was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct uncovered in an investigation into the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division.

Los Angeles police officers arrested 23-year-old Candido on September 20, 1997, and charged him with possession of a firearm by a felon. At a preliminary hearing on October 7, 1997, Officer Michael Buchanan testified that he and Officer Daniel Lujan had watched Candido talk on a payphone, then hang up and toss a gun into a nearby trash can.

Candido’s jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court began on February 10, 1998. Both officers testified and said they had seen Candido toss the weapon. Candido also testified. He said he had been talking on the phone with his girlfriend when the officers approached, handcuffed him, and took him to the police station. There, they roughed him up. They then pressed a gun against his handcuffed hand and told him the gun was now his. The jury hung, and a mistrial was declared on February 19, 1998. Rather than risk a retrial, Candido pled guilty on April 13, 1998 to possession of a firearm by a felon. He received a sentence of two years and eight months in prison.

On August 17, 1998, Officer Rafael Perez of the Los Angeles Police Department was charged with theft, possession of cocaine, and forgery. The jury deadlocked at his trial (with a majority voting for conviction) in December 1998. Police investigated further, and additional charges were filed against Perez. Just before his retrial on September 8, 1999, Perez pled guilty to eight drug charges and struck a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for a sentence of no more than five years in prison, he would cooperate with an investigation into the Rampart operations.

During an interview with investigators on November 5, 1999, Perez said that around the time of Candido’s arrest, Buchanan had approached him and said he was looking for a weapon to plant. Perez said he wasn’t certain that this was Candido’s case, but the timeline was about right. Separately, Perez’s statements about Buchanan’s alleged misconduct in other cases would become part of successful petitions for dismissals of convictions for other Rampart defendants.

Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department interviewed Candido on March 13, 2000. He repeated the story he had told at trial, that he was on a payphone with his girlfriend when a police car approached. He told his girlfriend he would call her back and complied with the officers’ request to be handcuffed and taken to the police station. When he asked why, they told him it was for “questioning.” Candido said he kept insisting the gun wasn’t his, but that Buchanan planted it on him. His girlfriend told investigators that a friend of Candido saw the whole thing but didn’t want to testify at trial because he was on parole at the time.

Candido filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on April 5, 2000. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion on May 30, 2000 supporting the petition, which was granted on May 31, 2000. Candido had already been paroled at the time, but the date of his release is unavailable.

A jury later convicted Buchanan and several other officers of conspiracy for alleged misconduct in another Rampart-related incident, but the convictions were overturned by a judge.

Candido filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the officers, the Los Angeles Police Department, and others. He settled for an undisclosed amount. More than 200 lawsuits were filed against the city by persons wrongfully convicted because of the Rampart misconduct or those who claimed they had been falsely arrested. There is no public final accounting, although a report from 2007 said the city had paid out $75 million, and more recent reports put the figure at closer to $125 million.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 4/13/2021
Last Updated: 4/13/2021
State:California
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Convicted:1998
Exonerated:2000
Sentence:2 years and 8 months
Race/Ethnicity:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No