Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Esaw Booker

Summary of Rampart Scandal
Esaw Booker was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct uncovered in an investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division.

Booker, then 46 years old, was arrested after an undercover operation on the west side of Los Angeles on April 14, 1992, and charged with sale of a controlled substance. Officer Rafael Perez would later say that he saw a man standing on the sidewalk. He said he nodded to the man and then said he wanted $20 of cocaine. That man went to Booker, who gave him the drugs, which were then sold to Perez.

Perez testified at Booker’s trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court. A jury convicted Booker on October 5, 1992, and he was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Booker appealed his sentence, and in 1996 filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Prosecutors opposed the petition, and Perez testified in early June 1998 at an evidentiary hearing and again said the arrest was proper and legal.

Then, 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.

Because Booker’s writ was already pending at the time of Perez’s arrest, his case was among the first that investigators discussed with Perez. On October 15, 1999, Perez told investigators that he had not made any false statements or given false testimony regarding Booker’s arrest. Perez’s attorney would later refer to this as a “righteous bust.”

But Booker said that wasn’t the case. He said the only reason he was arrested was that he was “meddling” as Perez was trying to do his undercover work. “Nobody would listen to me at the time,” he said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Robbins granted Booker’s petition and vacated his conviction on February 7, 2000. Because of jurisdictional issues, a separate petition had to be granted in Los Angeles County Superior Court, which along with the dismissal occurred on February 17, 2000. Booker served approximately five years in prison and had been paroled in 1997.

Along with the theft and related charges, Perez later pled guilty to civil-rights and firearm violations in an unrelated Rampart 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. It is not known whether Booker received compensation. Almost all the cases were settled. 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

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 3/4/2021
Last Updated: 3/4/2021
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1992
Sentence:9 years
Race/Ethnicity:Don't Know
Age at the date of reported crime:46
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No