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Report: 3 L.A. Cops May Be Charged

January 15, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A special task force investigating corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department has asked prosecutors to charge three officers with crimes ranging from assault to perjury, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

Detectives on the task force presented District Attorney Gil Garcetti’s office with evidence implicating Officers Nino Durden, Brian Hewitt and Michael Buchanan, the Times said, citing an unidentified source.

The LAPD’s probe into the city’s worst police corruption scandal in decades has uncovered alleged unjustified shootings, beatings, drug dealing, evidence planting, false arrests, witness intimidation and perjury.

The criminal charges would be the first to grow out of the scandal since former officer-turned-informant Rafael Perez began cooperating with authorities and implicating officers in wrongdoing.

To date, 20 officers have resigned or been relieved of duty, suspended without pay or fired in connection with the scandal. In addition, 11 criminal convictions have been overturned and four inmates have been released from prison.

All three officers once worked in the same anti-gang detail as Perez, who has pleaded guilty to stealing eight pounds of cocaine from an evidence locker. Perez has been cooperating with investigators in order to win a lighter penalty at his sentencing.

Among other things, Perez has implicated himself and Durden in a shooting, telling detectives he and Durden planted a gun on Javier Francisco Ovando to cover their tracks. Perez said the former partners then perjured themselves in court, saying Ovando had attacked them.

Ovando, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison for assaulting a police officer, has since had his conviction set aside and been freed. He was left paralyzed by the shooting and has filed a lawsuit against the city.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the task force’s recommendation. Durden’s lawyer, Darryl Mounger, declined comment, and Hewitt’s attorney could not be reached.

James Trott, who represents Buchanan, said he was surprised by the development and has ``no clue″ as to what the police think they have against his client.

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