Two former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies have been charged with planting guns at a medical marijuana dispensary when they were on the force in 2011. Julio Cesar Martinez, 39, and Anthony Manuel Paez, 32, were charged with one felony count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice and altering evidence as a peace officer. The charges could result in seven year stints. The two officers allegedly turned off the electricity and a security camera system inside the dispensary as they planted guns later cited as the basis for the arrests.
The officers wrote a report that they spotted a drug deal involving a person with a gun. They said that the followed the suspect, Antonio Rhodes, into the dispensary and found two guns: one near a trash bin and another on a desk next to some ecstasy pills. They arrested two individuals, Rhodes and Johnny Yang, who were charged with possession of an unregistered gun and the second for possession of a controlled substance while armed with a gun. However, a video from inside the dispensary was later found to be “inconsistent” with their accounts — a rather mild way to put it in a gun planting case.
Martinez was a 15-year veteran of the Department and Paez was an 7-year veteran. Prosecutors say that Paez crawled under a desk to shut off a video surveillance system before planting two handguns on top of a desk and withdrawing one from a drawer and placing it on a chair. Martinez allegedly shut off the electricity.
Notably, Yang entered a plea of no contest and was sentenced April 27, 2012, to a year in jail. Consider what would have happened if this video did not exist. Once again, cases of this kind show the value of videotape evidence. We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue. The video contradiction of the police account is all too familiar on this blog. Of course, in Dallas, Dallas Police Chief David Brown revealed a new policy that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. The policy came after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements. I would have thought that such a proposal would have resulted in the termination of Brown but he continues to run a major police department.
Presumably, Yang will now consider a civil lawsuit as well as Rhodes.
We seem to have a fair number of controversies generated by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department or the Los Angeles Police Department lately. Notably, when officers were recently found to have disabled cameras on police cars, the Chief of Police decided not to pursue the officers for criminal charges or termination.
Source: LA Times