A current Los Angeles police officer and a former officer have been found guilty of perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice in a 2008 drug case. The jury could not reach a verdict on charges against a third officer.
Former Officer Evan Samuel, 40, and Officer Richard Amio, 33, showed no emotion as the verdict was read on Tuesday.
The two officers had testified under oath that they chased suspected gang member Guillermo Alarcon into the carport of his Hollywood apartment building in 2007 and saw him toss a black box with cocaine, which they found immediately.
But grainy black and white surveillance video told a different story. It showed officers searching for more than 20 minutes before finding an object they said contained drugs. Defense attorneys argued the video was misleading.
“The beginning of the video was heavily edited and was degraded by both experts, so from my point, either it was intentionally altered or the video was turned on in the middle of the events,” said Ira Salzman, Samuel’s attorney.
The defense claimed the video showed officers simply looking for additional evidence. But Alarcon’s attorney, Luis Carillo, believes the officers were trying to frame his client. Alarcon was exonerated in 2008 after the video was played in court. Carillo said his client is a hard-working family man who is not involved in drugs. Alarcon was not in court for Tuesday’s verdict, but his attorney was.
“The jury verdict upholds the principle of equal justice under the law,” said Carillo. “The law should be applied equally to everybody, no matter your rank or station in life, no matter if you’re a police officer.”
A third officer, Manuel Ortiz, 39, was also accused of perjury and conspiracy but the jury deadlocked on those charges and the judge declared a mistrial.
“There was no evidence whatsoever to show that he knew of any sort of conspiracy, that he participated in any conspiracy or that he lied on the stand,” said Bill Seki, Ortiz’s attorney.
If it wasn’t for the surveillance video, Alarcon could have faced 10 years in prison. Instead, the two convicted officers will be heading there. Samuel faces more than five years behind bars and Amio faces more than four. They’ll be sentence on Dec. 12.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck released a statement, saying, “I am truly saddened by the events that led to the perjury conviction of a current and a former Los Angeles police officer. The character of our organization is defined by the conduct that we condone. These actions were entirely unacceptable.”