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Ruben Rojas

Summary of Rampart Scandal
Ruben Rojas was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart scandal.

Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden arrested Rojas on March 5, 1997 at a house just north of the Hollywood Freeway. He was charged with possession for sale of cocaine base and possession for sale of a controlled substance. Rojas had just been released from prison and was on parole. Information about his previous conviction isn’t available.

Durden testified at Rojas’s preliminary hearing on March 19 about the arrest and seizure of drugs. Rojas pled guilty to both counts on April 24, 1997, and was sentenced to six years 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 by himself and his fellow officers. These interviews formed the basis of nearly all of the exonerations in this group.

In an interview on November 5, 1999, Perez told investigators that he and Durden had planted drugs on Rojas. Perez said that a confidential informant had called him and said Rojas was back from prison. Perez said he promised the informant that he would take care of it.

“He [Rojas] was at home,” Perez said. “His mother and father were next door visiting with someone. When they saw us leaving with him, they came out. And they were very upset. ‘What's going on? You know, what has my son done? What has my son – what has he done?’ We explained to them that we observed him selling narcotics. And he was just transported to the station and this report was fabricated.”

By the time of Perez’s interview with investigators, a public defender had filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Rojas. The District Attorney for Los Angeles County later joined in the petition and said it no longer had confidence in the conviction. A judge granted the writ on November 17, 1999, vacating the convictions. Rojas’s charges were dismissed that day, and he was released from prison.

Separate from his theft convictions, Perez later pled guilty to federal civil rights and firearms violations resulting from a Rampart-related shooting. Durden pled guilty to stealing drugs and money from a suspect and to covering up that 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, including a claim by Rojas, were settled. Rojas received $1 million. 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:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Sentence:6 years
Age at the date of reported crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No