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Carlos Carranza

Summary of Rampart Scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Los_Angeles_County.png
Carlos Carranza and Blanca Sahagun were two of approximately 170 men and women wrongfully convicted because of misconduct by officers in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart division.

Officers Rafael Perez and Nino Durden stopped Sahagun and Carranza on March 14, 1997, and each was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Perez would testify at a preliminary hearing that a confidential informant told him that Sahagun was selling heroin. He also testified that he and Durden recovered heroin from behind the car’s rearview mirror and from Carranza’s sock.

Both Sahagun, who was 28 years old, and Carranza, who was 24 years old, pled guilty to the single count on April 9, 1997, and were each sentenced to a year in county jail and three years on 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 about problems with the arrests of Sahagun and Carranza, which he said began with a confidential informant telling police about Sahagun’s activities. Perez said that the officers did find 57 balloons of heroin in a baggie in the car, but that there was not enough probable cause to charge Carranza, who was the driver. “We knew we had the first defendant, the female, delivering the narcotics,” Perez said. “But we also wanted to book the second defendant, Mr. Carranza. And I believe Durden – we decided that Durden was going to find some balloons of heroin in his sock, which is what we did.”

Investigators interviewed Carranza on November 11, 1999, and Sahagun on December 1, 1999. Carranza said that although he didn’t possess any heroin at the time of his arrest, he had helped Sahagun arrange the sale of heroin earlier that day. Sahagun denied any possession or intent to sell. She said the arrest report was fabricated because she refused to become a confidential informant for Perez.

The District Attorney for Los Angeles County filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Sahagun and Carranza on January 24, 2000. The petition said the district attorney’s office no longer had confidence in the evidence used to convict Sahagun and Carranza. The writ was granted on January 25, 2000. The convictions were vacated, and the charges dismissed.

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 for 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 claims by Sahagun and Carranza 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: 12/15/2021
Last Updated: 12/15/2021
State:California
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Convicted:1998
Exonerated:2000
Sentence:1 year
Race/Ethnicity:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No