Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Carlos E. Romero

Summary of Rampart Scandal
Carlos E. Romero was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct uncovered in an investigation into corruption at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division.

Romero was arrested by Officer Rafael Perez on October 26, 1995, and charged with possession for sale of cocaine base. In his report, Perez said he and his partner saw Romero, who was 18 years old, take part in a drug transaction outside an apartment building near MacArthur Park.

Romero pled guilty to the charge on November 17, 1995, and was sentenced to 180 days in the county jail and three years of probation.

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.

On November 5, 1999, Perez told investigators that Romero’s arrest didn’t happen the way it was written. The report said that he and another officer had parked their police car, watched the drug transaction, and then moved in to make an arrest.

“What actually occurred on this, we were driving, as I remember, northbound on Westlake, when we observed a catering truck,” Perez said. “We observed the two defendants standing there. We walked out and were gonna make contact with them, and get field interviews, and see what they were doing in the area. As we searched the area, we found a tissue with some rock cocaine in it. Based on the fact that these two gang members were standing there, and they were in such close proximity to the narcotics, they went to jail.”

The District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Romero’s behalf on April 17, 2000. The petition said prosecutors no longer had confidence in the evidence to support a conviction. The petition was granted on April 20, 2000. Romero’s conviction was vacated, and his charge dismissed.

Separate from his theft convictions, Perez later pled guilty to federal civil rights and firearms violations resulting from a Rampart-related 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 Romero, 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: 6/30/2021
Last Updated: 6/30/2021
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1995
Sentence:180 days
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No