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Edgar Escobar

Summary of Rampart Scandal
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Edgar Escobar 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 Nino Durden and Michael Buchanan arrested Escobar on November 10, 1996, and charged him with possession of a firearm by a felon. According to the arrest report and Durden’s testimony at a preliminary hearing, the officers saw Escobar, then 28 years old, take a gun out of his pocket and hand it to Rudolfo Moreno.

Escobar’s trial began February 10, 1997 in Los Angeles Superior Court. Both officers testified that Escobar handled the weapon. Moreno testified that the gun was his alone, that he did not get it from Escobar, and that Escobar never touched it. Escobar was convicted on February 13, 1997 and sentenced to five years 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.

In his interviews with investigators, Perez alleged wide-ranging misconduct by several officers at the Rampart station, including Durden and Buchanan. He said they were involved in many instances of filing false police reports and committing perjury in cases that were similar to Escobar’s.

Escobar filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on April 13, 2000. It alleged that the officers framed Escobar and that evidence of similar misconduct by the officers was known at the time of Escobar’s trial and should have been disclosed to his attorneys. By the time his petition was filed, several petitions for writs of habeas corpus had already been granted in similar cases involving these officers and others.

On May 30, 2000, the district attorney’s office answered Escobar’s petition and said the state no longer had confidence in the conviction.

The answer included a statement Escobar made to detectives in 2000. In the statement, he said that he and Moreno, whom he had not seen in a long time, were chatting outside a bar when Durden and Buchanan drove up in an unmarked car. Durden asked Escobar whether he was on parole, and Escobar said he was. The officers ordered Escobar and Moreno to turn and put their hands behind their backs. Escobar said he heard Moreno tell Buchanan that he had a gun in his pocket. Then both men were handcuffed. Escobar said that he had not known Moreno had a weapon until that point.

Escobar’s writ was granted and his charges dismissed on May 31, 2000.

Escobar 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:1996
Convicted:1997
Exonerated:2000
Sentence:5 years
Race/Ethnicity:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No