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Joseph Jones

Summary of Rampart Scandal
Joseph Jones was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted based on misconduct by officers in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart scandal.

Jones was arrested on August 3, 1997 by officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden after what they said was an undercover drug operation and charged with sale of cocaine and sale of cocaine base. In their report, Perez and Durden said that Jones had sold them $20 of cocaine out of a room at the William Penn Hotel near MacArthur Park.

On February 9, 1998, Jones pled guilty to sale of cocaine and received an eight-year prison sentence. The second charge, sale of cocaine base, was dismissed as part of the plea deal.

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 by himself and his fellow officers.

On October 11, 1999, Perez told investigators that Jones had never sold drugs to him or Durden. He said the officers had approached Jones about buying drugs. The transaction was about to take place, Perez said, but then Jones became “hinked,” suspicious of the two strangers wanting to buy drugs. No deal was completed, but Jones was arrested, and cocaine was found in a nearby room. “And, of course, when we wrote the report, we indicated that Mr. Joseph [Jones] handed me some rock, which is incorrect.” Perez said.

In a second interview about the case, on November 5, 1999, one of the investigators told Perez that they interviewed Jones in prison: “And one of the things that he said is that he had no intention, at the time, of selling any narcotics. But rather he saw you and Officer Durden dressed in plain clothes. He said that you did not look like narcotics customers or dealers, but you did look shady as hell. Uh, he also said that, uh, that one of them, Durden looked like he would blast somebody real quick. And he says he confronted you, asked what you were looking for, because you guys looked so out-of-place.”

In that interview, Jones said that he told his attorney that he wanted to take a polygraph test because he didn't have any narcotics and hadn’t been selling any narcotics. Jones said his attorney advised him to plead guilty, telling him, “if you fight Rampart you're going to lose.”

The District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on November 10, 1999 on behalf of Jones. It was granted that day. Jones’s conviction was vacated, and his charge was dismissed.

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

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. Jones was one of the claimants, and he received a settlement of $425,000. 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: 12/22/2021
Last Updated: 2/2/2022
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Sentence:8 years
Race/Ethnicity:Don't Know
Age at the date of reported crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No