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Video meant to rebut LAPD statements is bogus

The attorney for the defendant in a handgun case concedes that a tape showing a license plate on the accused's car is a fraud. Police had pulled his vehicle over for lacking a plate.

January 25, 2010|By Jack Leonard

It was meant to be a smoking gun: A grainy security video that proved police corruption.

Officers said they had stopped Rafat Abdallah because his white Mercedes was missing a license plate. During a search of the car, they discovered a loaded handgun -- a serious crime for a convicted felon like Abdallah.

But the footage, taken from a surveillance camera, clearly showed a license plate on Rafat Abdallah's white Mercedes as he left his business just moments before officers pulled him over.

The video was proof, Abdallah's attorney contended, that the police officers fabricated their story about the missing license plate.

But it was the video that was fabricated.

Defense attorney Jim Epstein conceded in court Friday that he had come to believe that the footage -- taken from a surveillance camera at a wholesale produce business owned by Abdallah -- was a fraud.

Police union officials reacted angrily Monday, accusing Abdallah, 36, of falsely smearing two honest officers in an attempt to beat a serious gun charge that could send him to prison.

They said Abdallah is an alleged gang member with a serious criminal record, and they also criticized a local TV news channel for reporting on the allegations before prosecutors had presented evidence challenging the video's authenticity.

"Two LAPD officers got their reputations put through the wringer," said Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

"This doctored video was put out there to smear them but now it's backfired," Weber said.

Epstein said he warned his client that prosecutors would ask experts to examine the video and said he could not believe that Abdallah was behind the fraud, suggesting that someone else may have been responsible.

Epstein said he regretted accusing the officers of lying about the license plate.

But, he said, other portions of the surveillance footage contradict some of the officers' statements.

jack.leonard@latimes.com

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