A former Huntington Park police officer denied Wednesday that he used an electric stun gun to torture a teen-age burglary suspect but testified that he believed his partner had touched Jaime Ramirez with the device.
Robert Rodriguez said he stood back and listened to moans of pain as his co-defendant, former Officer William J. Lustig, leaned over Ramirez.
"It was like a painful moan, someone who was in pain," Rodriguez testified in Los Angeles Superior Court. "All you could hear Mr. Ramirez saying (was), 'No, sir. Please, sir."
Rodriguez, 26, and Lustig, 32, each are charged with a count of felony assault causing "great bodily harm" and a misdemeanor count of inhumane treatment of a prisoner. Both were fired from the Police Department as a result of the incident. They have been free on their own recognizance.
Testimony Called Tainted
Richard A. Levine, Lustig's attorney, has maintained throughout the trial that Lustig never used a stun gun on Ramirez and that the testimony of other key witnesses is tainted by their involvement in the incident.
"If there was an affirmative act of injury upon Ramirez, I believe the evidence indicates it was not my client, but Officer Rodriguez," Levine said.
The charges stem from an interrogation of Ramirez, 18, shortly after 4 a.m. on Nov. 30, 1986. Officer Eric Ault had arrested Ramirez on suspicion of car burglary after he found stereo equipment in a paper bag the teen-ager was carrying.
Ramirez told the jury last week that Rodriguez shocked him three times on his upper left leg with the stun gun before Lustig took the device and shocked him four times. Ramirez told the officers at the scene that he had bought the equipment for $25. But later at the police station, he admitted to another officer that he had stolen it.
'I Saw the Stun Gun'
Rodriguez testified that he was standing about six feet away when Lustig leaned in toward Ramirez, who was in the back seat of Ault's car with his hands cuffed behind his back. Rodriguez said at first that he thought Lustig was beating or grabbing Ramirez in a painful way but later deduced that Lustig had severely stunned the teen-ager.
The former officer said he never saw Lustig actually touch the stun gun to Ramirez. After about a minute, Lustig moved away from the car, raised his arms and said Ramirez apparently was telling the truth, Rodriguez testified.
"I saw the stun gun in his right hand," Rodriguez testified.
Rodriguez was asked why he made no effort to stop what he thought was abuse of the prisoner. "Basically police officers don't interfere with other officers," said Rodriguez. He added, however, that he could not justify his inaction.
Code of Silence
Rodriguez said he did not report the incident to his superiors because "I didn't want to be the one to go rat on an officer." Rodriguez said officers are bound by a code of silence borne from the fact that they may have to rely on each other in a life-threatening situation someday.
Rodriguez also admitted that he asked Ault to leave him out of any reports of the incident. Rodriguez said he feared he would be fired "not for what I did, it's what I didn't do."
But Deputy Dist. Atty. James E. Koller challenged that account during cross-examination.
"You didn't want to be there because you were directly involved in what happened. Isn't that correct?" Koller said.
Responded Rodriguez: "No sir, not directly involved."