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Carlos Romero

Summary of Rampart Scandal
Carlos Romero was one of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct by officers in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division.

Romero was arrested on July 31, 1997, after Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden found cocaine in the dining room of the house where he lived with other family members. Romero was charged with possession for sale of cocaine base. At the time, he was on probation from a previous conviction for drug possession.

During a preliminary hearing on August 15, 1997, Perez testified that Romero was home when the police arrived, and that Romero had led police to the cocaine.

Romero pled guilty to the possession charge on October 22, 1997, and was sentenced to a year in 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 discussed Romero’s arrest with investigators on October 11, 1999. He said the arrest report was false and that he had falsely testified at the preliminary hearing. Romero wasn’t home when the officers arrived, and he hadn’t told the officers the location of the cocaine.

Perez said that Romero’s cousin, Will Rodriguez, had told police about Romero and his alleged involvement in dealing drugs. At the time, Perez was also in a relationship with Veronica Quesada, who was Romero’s sister and who was at the house when Perez and Durden arrived.

The officers entered without a search warrant. Perez told investigators that he had not met Romero before. Romero wasn’t home, and Perez said that Quesada, under pressure to avoid charges of her own, pointed the officers to what she said were her brother’s drugs. When Romero showed up, he was arrested. Perez said that he and Durden stole about $1,500 from Romero. Romero later told investigators that the officers planted the drugs at the house.

The relationship between Quesada and Perez would become public after Perez’s 1998 arrest on the cocaine and theft charges. But at the time of Romero’s sentencing, in 1997, Perez asked the court to show leniency, suggesting that Romero served a valuable role as a confidential informant.

The District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Romero on November 10, 1999. It was granted that same day. At the time, Romero was in prison on a separate drug conviction. Romero had initially received a nine-year prison sentence for that conviction but was resentenced after his writ was granted.

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 state and federal charges related to that same shooting and received a five-year prison sentence.

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

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Posting Date: 12/14/2021
Last Updated: 12/14/2021
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Sentence:1 year
Age at the date of reported crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No