Friday, September 27, 2002
City Settles Suits Alleging LAPD Officers Conspired to Frame Plaintiffs
By LORELEI LAIRD, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles City Council has voted to settle lawsuits brought by three men who won release from prison on habeas corpus writs after they charged that police officers lied to get them convicted.
In closed session on Wednesday, the council voted to heed the city attorney’s recommendation to pay out $717,000 to settle suits brought by Anthony Carnighan, Juan Carlos Suares and Thyjuan Taplin.
Carnighan served two years and nine months in prison on drug charges before obtaining his writ on Sept. 27, 2000. He said officers David Cochran and Christopher Coppock arrested him near the corner of Fifth and San Pedro Streets downtown on Jan. 20, 1998, planted rock cocaine on him and had him charged with possession of a controlled substance.
The city agreed to settle with Carnighan for $360,000.
Suares served two years and five months on similar charges, winning release on a habeas corpus writ on Jan. 25, 2000.
He was arrested by notorious Rampart Division officers Rafael Perez, Nino Durden and Edward Ortiz on Sept. 12, 1997 and, Suares alleged, planted a crack cocaine rock on him and said they found it on him during the arrest.
On his release from prison, Suares was immediately deported. He is currently serving a prison sentence for charges stemming from an attempt to sneak back over the border. He settled with the city for $175,000.
Perez and Durden both were convicted on corruption-related charges and imprisoned. Ortiz also was convicted, but Judge Jacqueline Connor later said she made a mistake in instructing the jury and reversed the conviction. The matter is on appeal.
Taplin said he was driving near the intersection of Halldale Avenue and 62nd Street when officers Edward Ruiz and Doug Beard pulled him over for no reason on Sept. 20, 1995. His said the officers falsely claimed he ran a stop sign, then fled on foot, dropping a gun. He was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and went to prison as part of a plea bargain.
He served one year in prison before obtaining a writ of habeas corpus on Oct. 17, 2000. The council voted to settle with him and co-plaintiff Mae Henderson for $182,000.
Gregory Moreno, attorney for Suares and Carnighan, as well as many other plaintiffs in police misconduct cases, said he was pleased by the settlements but frustrated that he had not been able to bring a misconduct lawsuit into court.
“It’s been over two years now and these victims have to go on with their lives,” he said. “If they’d proceeded to trial, it’d be interesting to know what a jury would say.”
A fourth lawsuit related to alleged police misconduct, Jesse Escochea v. City of Los Angeles, was discussed by the council in closed session Wednesday, but no decision was reached on it. That case concerns interactions between protest marchers and the police during the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company