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Roy Montes

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

Montes, then 18 years old, was arrested on August 23, 1996, and charged with possession for sale of cocaine after Officer Nino Durden reported that he had seen Montes drop a clear baggie containing several rocks of crack cocaine. Durden testified about the arrest in a preliminary hearing on November 13, 1996.

Two weeks later, on November 27, Montes pled guilty to the possession charge. He was sentenced to 360 days in the Los Angeles County Jail and then placed on probation. After violating the terms of his probation, he was sentenced to three 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.

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 that he and his fellow officers committed.

On October 1, 1999, Perez told investigators that Durden had planted the drugs on Montes. He said that several officers had gone to raid a party after getting a tip that a murder suspect might be there. When they arrived, the people attending the party tried to scatter.

Perez said he wrote the arrest report, and it contained several inaccuracies.

“When we broke up the party – the way it's written on the report, when we arrive we see a Mr. Samuel Bailey out front. And the gun is tossed. That's inaccurate. Or when he says that he saw – when we arrived at the location, he observed Roy Montes dropping the bindle, all that's fabricated. All these people were taken into custody first. After they were taken into custody and detained, that's when it was decided on who's going to jail.”

Separately, investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department interviewed Montes on November 1, 1999. He denied having any drugs when he was arrested. On November 30, 1999, the District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate Montes’s conviction. It was granted that day, and his charge was also dismissed. Montes was released from prison that day. Samuel Bailey, who was at the same party, was also exonerated.

In addition to his plea for the cocaine theft and related charges, Perez later pled guilty to civil rights and firearm violations in the shooting of an unarmed man. Durden pled guilty to stealing drugs and money from suspects and covering up the shooting of that same man.

More than 200 lawsuits were filed against the city by persons wrongfully convicted because of the Rampart misconduct or by those who claimed they had been falsely arrested. Almost all – including a claim by Montes – were settled. Montes received $290,000. 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 closer to $125 million.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 12/11/2020
Last Updated: 2/2/2022
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1996
Sentence:1 year
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No