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Gerald Peters

Summary of Rampart Scandal
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Gerald Peters was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct uncovered in an investigation into the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart scandal.

Peters, then 28 years old, was arrested on April 27, 1996, and charged with possession of cocaine after officers said they saw him drop a film canister, which contained cocaine. Peters pled guilty to the charge on August 27, 1996 and was sentenced to two 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. These interviews formed the basis of nearly all of the exonerations tied to the Rampart scandal.

In two separate interviews, on November 5, 1999, and February 3, 2000, Perez said that Peters hadn’t been in possession of the cocaine. He said that he and other officers had gone to an apartment complex near Echo Park Lake after a call about a noisy party. As the police arrived, Perez said, all the attendees ran inside Peters’s apartment. The officers knocked on the door. At one point, Perez said, Peters opened the interior door and swore at the officers and said “You ain’t coming in.”

The officers then broke down the door with a battering ram. The apartment was searched, but Perez said no drugs were found. Perez didn’t write the arrest report, but he said that after Peters and the others had been detained, Officer Lawrence Martinez told him that Peters was going to be arrested for drug possession. The report Martinez wrote said that he and Officer Scott McNeil saw Peters discard the canister at the top of the staircase.

Perez said that didn’t happen. Asked how he knew, Perez said: “Because, I was there when we went into the courtyard. And, number one, by the time we got into the courtyard – ran into the courtyard to see where they were going, they were already in the apartment. We were not in a position to see any narcotics being dropped by anybody. Or at least not by Mr. Peters. And, I know for a fact that we were coming up with a story on what we're gonna book him for. And I remember Martinez saying here, he had the narcotics. It was, you know, he was gonna use his own.”

Peters was interviewed separately. He said he and his guests at the party had been inside his apartment before the police entered the courtyard. He said that after his arrest, he asked an officer at the police station what was happening. The officer responded by slamming his face into a table. Peters said he didn’t file a complaint about his mistreatment because he thought nobody would believe him. He also said he pled guilty to avoid harsher punishment.

The District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Peters’s behalf on May 7, 2000. It was granted on May 17, 2000. The conviction was vacated, and the charge dismissed.

Martinez and McNeil were both fired for misconduct related to this case but later had the firings reversed on appeal.

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, including a complaint filed by Peters, 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

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Posting Date: 4/13/2021
Last Updated: 4/13/2021
State:California
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1996
Convicted:1996
Exonerated:2000
Sentence:2 years
Race/Ethnicity:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No