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Miguel Hernandez

Summary of Rampart Scandal
Miguel Hernandez was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct by officers in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division.

Hernandez was arrested on October 25, 1996, and charged with possession of a weapon by a felon. The arresting officers, Nino Durden and Rafael Perez, said in their report that they saw a blue-steel handgun poking out of the back of Hernandez’s rear waistband. Durden later testified about the arrest at a preliminary hearing.

Hernandez pled guilty on November 21, 1996 to that single count and was sentenced to 16 months in prison. On August 17, 1998, Perez 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.

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 1, 1999, Perez told investigators that Hernandez did not have a weapon. He said that he and Durden were finishing their shift and saw Hernandez in an alley near Alvarado and Third streets. Durden recognized Hernandez because he had seen him earlier in the shift, and he had told Hernandez that he didn’t want him hanging out in that area. Perez said the officers agreed to arrest Hernandez, and they patted him down and then put him in the patrol car.

“He never reached into his waistband,” Perez said. “He never dropped a handgun. That gun was placed there, or -- that gun was already in our custody. Uh, Officer Durden had it in his custody for several – several days. I might even say a couple of weeks. If a check of that serial number of that handgun is run again, I believe we had run that serial number already. That serial number to that particular gun was run prior to that date.” Perez said he signed the arrest report that Durden wrote.

On November 10, 1999, the District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to vacate Hernandez’s conviction. It was granted that same day, and Hernandez’s charge was also dismissed.

Separate from his theft convictions, Perez later pled guilty to federal civil rights and firearms violations resulting from a Rampart-related shooting. Durden later pled guilty to state and federal charges including fabricating evidence, false arrest and presenting false testimony in that same shooting.

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. Almost all were settled. Hernandez was a plaintiff, and he received a settlement of $200,000. 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: 12/14/2021
Last Updated: 2/2/2022
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1996
Sentence:1 year and 4 months
Age at the date of reported crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No