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Jury convicts 3 of 4 LA cops in Rampart case

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 15 -- The Los Angeles Police Department's credibility was discounted again in a high-profile criminal trial Wednesday when a Superior Court jury found three police officers guilty of perjury and conspiracy charges stemming from the Rampart scandal.

In a verdict that harkened back to the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the jury agreed with allegations that LAPD officers planted evidence and falsified reports in order to railroad an innocent man.

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The mixed verdict found Officer Michael Buchanan and Sgts. Brian Liddy and Edward Otriz guilty of falsely arresting and framing three alleged gang members while assigned to the LAPD's Rampart Division in 1996.

A fourth defendant, Officer Paul Harper, was cleared on all counts in the first trial involving the Rampart scandal.

After the verdict, defense lawyers said they would appeal, and they characterized the verdicts as the product of the jurors' apparent skepticism about the truthfulness of the officers who were on trial.

"What I have seen in this courtroom disgusts me," said Ortiz's lawyer, Barry Levin. "I was stupid enough and nave enough to trust in the system."

Levin said it was apparent to him that the jurors had started the trial with the impression that the officers were not being truthful and that their conviction was a foregone conclusion.

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The Rampart scandal was the result of the revelations made by Rafael Perez, a former rogue policeman who described widespread corruption in his former division in exchange for a lighter prison sentence for stealing $1 million worth of cocaine from a police evidence locker.

Although Perez was the genesis of the Rampart charges, he did not testify during the case since attorneys for both sides assumed he would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against incriminating himself in offenses for which he was not granted immunity.

"His credibility is still in question and calling him may have done more harm than good," said Harper's lawyer, Joel Issacson.

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