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Steven Garcia

Summary of Rampart Scandal
Steven Garcia and Jesus Lozano were two of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct uncovered in an investigation into corruption at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division.

On May 8, 1997, Officers Nino Durden and Rafael Perez set up an observation post just west of an apartment building on Alvarado Boulevard. According to their arrest report, the officers said they had received complaints about drug dealing. In the report, they said they saw a transaction between 46-year-old Garcia and 33-year-old Lozano. When the officers approached the men, according to the report, Perez saw Garcia drop a small bindle of cocaine to the ground. Both officers said they saw Lozano also drop several cocaine rocks to the ground. They arrested Garcia and Lozano.

At a preliminary hearing for both defendants on May 22, 1997, Perez testified to the truthfulness of the arrest report. He said he and Durden arrested both outside the building, and the officers detained three or four other people but made no additional arrests.

Lozano pled guilty on June 5, 1997 to possession of cocaine and was sentenced to 16 months in prison. Garcia pled guilty on September 4, 1997 to possession for sale of cocaine base and received a four-year prison sentence.

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.

Rafael Perez told investigators on January 13, 2000 that the arrest reports on Garcia and Lozano contained false information. He said there was no observation post and that the officers entered a home based upon information provided by a confidential informant.

Perez said that he believed that Durden did see Lozano drop the cocaine to the ground. He said that the cocaine found in the apartment was placed on Garcia because the officers believed he lived there. Perez also said that the officers never saw a transaction between Lozano and Garcia.

Lozano later told investigators that he was at the home of a man called “Sonny White” when the officers showed up. He said he was not in possession of cocaine at the time of his arrest.

Garcia told investigators that he, too, was at the residence of a man he knew as “Sonny White,” when the officers forced their way in around midnight. He said Perez kneed him in the groin and then let a woman at the residence take $20 from his wallet. (Perez denied kneeing Garcia.)

Garcia said the cocaine he was charged with was found on another man at the residence. But that man had no criminal record, while Garcia had several previous convictions. Garcia said that Perez tried to leverage that by telling Garcia that the cocaine would be placed on him if he didn’t cooperate with the police and tell them about sources for drugs or guns. Garcia said he refused to cooperate, and he was arrested, while the other man was released.

Based on a motion filed by the District Attorney for Los Angeles County that said the office no longer had confidence in the convictions, a judge vacated the convictions and dismissed the charges against Lozano and Garcia on February 17, 2000. Garcia and Lozano both settled federal civil-rights lawsuits against Perez, Durden, the Los Angeles Police Department and others. Garcia received $980,000; Lozano received $750,000.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 7/26/2021
Last Updated: 2/2/2022
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Sentence:4 years
Age at the date of reported crime:46
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No