Disgraced former police officer Rafael Perez got a cut lip in a fistfight with his cellmates over what television show to watch, officials said Monday.
The anti-gang officer who unleashed the Rampart scandal a year ago apparently wanted to watch "COPS" on Saturday night, authorities said.
His cellmates at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood did not.
The other inmates were particularly peeved that Perez was on the telephone with his wife while making the request, said Sheriff's Deputy Edward Ramirez.
At about 7:15 p.m., inmate Javier Ortega, 31, "basically told him, 'You're on the phone; you don't have a say when you're on the phone,' " the deputy said.
Then the fists started flying. A third cellmate jumped in, siding with Ortega. "It's hard to tell who was getting the best of it," said Ramirez.
Deputies quickly ordered the three to stop, and the inmates complied.
All three suffered minor injuries and were treated and taken to solitary confinement. Perez's attorney said he suffered nothing more than a cut lip.
"It's my understanding that he was attacked by two people and he defended himself," said attorney Winston Kevin McKesson.
Perez, serving a five-year sentence for theft, has been held in a unit with other inmates who either have been law enforcement officers or are related to them. Such inmates are in danger of assault if mixed in with the general jail population, sheriff's officials said. The department would not say whether the two cellmates had been officers.
Ortega had been arrested for alleged assault with a deadly weapon, according to the Sheriff's Department Web site. The other inmate, Angel Ortega, who is not related to Javier, was in jail for alleged drug possession.
"They've all been in the cell for quite some time and knew each other well," said Ramirez. "I would equate this with a family squabble. They're friendly usually."
Indeed, the whole unit is generally peaceful, authorities say.
"They have TVs, they have phones. Because we don't usually have a problem with them, they usually get pretty good treatment."
After admitting to stealing $1 million worth of cocaine from police evidence lockers, Perez negotiated a plea bargain that gave him a lenient sentence in exchange for testimony on other officers.
Perez's confessions last fall supplied the basis for the charges against four officers currently standing trial on charges of framing gang members, planting evidence and perjuring themselves on the stand. His claims led to more than 100 criminal convictions being overturned and may cost the city more than $100 million in lawsuits.