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Inmate Freed in Rampart Scandal Files Lawsuit

Courts: Russell Newman, jailed for seven years, says officers planted drugs and a gun on him.

June 07, 2000|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles man whose drug conviction was overturned after he spent more than seven years in jail, on Tuesday filed the latest lawsuit growing out of the Los Angeles Police Department's ongoing scandal.

Russell E. Newman, 42, charges that the city of Los Angeles violated his civil rights when former LAPD Officer Rafael Perez and other officers in the department's anti-gang unit allegedly framed him in 1991 on charges of selling cocaine.

Newman's lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, did not specify a dollar amount for his damages, but his attorneys alleged that he is owed at least $1 million for each year he spent in prison.

Newman said he was leaving a liquor store in Hollywood on the evening of Dec. 11, 1991, when he was arrested by Perez and Officers Troy Gaitan and Anthony Lopez from the LAPD anti-gang unit.

In the lawsuit, Newman charges that Perez and the other officers planted a gun and cocaine on him.

Newman was charged and convicted of selling drugs on the basis of the officers' testimony, according to the suit. He was sentenced to 12 years in Pelican Bay State Prison and served seven years and four months. While he was in prison, Newman said, guards beat him severely, making it difficult for him to walk, even with a cane.

Newman's attorneys say that he is considering a suit against the state for the beating.

From prison, Newman said, he routinely wrote to state and local officials, professing his innocence. But he said no one responded.

Perez, who is acting as an informant as part of a plea bargain on cocaine theft charges, has since testified that he and other Rampart Division officers were involved in filing false police reports, perjury and evidence planting. Perez arrested Newman several years before the officer began to work at the Rampart police station.

Two months after Newman was paroled in March 2000, a Superior Court judge vacated his conviction and those of five other people whose cases were tainted by allegations of police misconduct.

Newman's attorneys, Gregory Moreno, Luis Carrillo, Danilo Becerra and Arnoldo Casillas, say they also filed claims against the city of Los Angeles on Tuesday on behalf of 25 other victims of police corruption and their family members.

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