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Carlos Guevara

Summary of Rampart Scandal
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Carlos Guevara and Walter Rivas 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.

Guevara, who was 19 years old, and Rivas, who was 25 years old, were arrested on March 21, 1998 after Officer Michael Buchanan said he observed them selling drugs along Rampart Boulevard. Buchanan would later say he found a vitamin bottle containing cocaine near where he arrested the men.

Rivas and Guevara had separate trials in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July 1998. Buchanan testified at both. Guevara’s jury acquitted him of possession of cocaine for sale but convicted him on July 16, 1998 of the lesser charge of possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to a year in jail. Rivas was convicted on July 27, 1998 of possession of cocaine for sale and sentenced to seven 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 operations of the police department’s Rampart substation.

Perez began talking two days later. Over the next year, he met with investigators from the police department and the district attorney’s office 29 times and detailed alleged misconduct committed by himself and his fellow officers.

On October 11, 1999, Perez said that there might be problems with the arrests of Guevara and Rivas. He said that just before the case went to trial, Buchanan told another officer, Jeffrey Graham, that his testimony was going to be needed. Perez said that Graham became upset with Buchanan.

“So, he was real angry at Buchanan for asking him to testify about, you know, seeing narcotics being recovered when – when he didn't,” said Perez. “You know, he hadn't seen it. You know, and, uh, he was upset. And, you know, he had said some things like, ‘You know, you guys, you know, you know, you guys put your dope on people. Well, don't – don’t add me onto these. I already told you guys, don't add me onto these type of reports.’”

On January 14, 2000, investigators spoke with Guevara, who was now living in El Salvador. He said that he and Rivas were walking down Rampart Boulevard when two officers approached them and then made their arrests. Neither man possessed any drugs, Guevara said. At the police station, the two men were separated.

Guevara said that Rivas told him that the police wanted information on drug dealers, which neither man could provide. Guevara said he did not find out his charge until the next day.

The District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed separate writs of habeas corpus for Rivas and Guevara on February 15, 2000. The motions said that based on Perez’s statements, the office no longer had confidence in the convictions and that Buchanan might have given false testimony at the trials. Both writs were granted on February 17, 2000.

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. Guevara received a settlement. It is unclear whether Rivas did. 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: 7/26/2021
Last Updated: 7/26/2021
State:California
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1998
Convicted:1998
Exonerated:2000
Sentence:1 year
Race/Ethnicity:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No