Two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies have been criminally charged with lying about a drug arrest after a videotape of the incident appeared to contradict their account, authorities said.
Deputies Robert G. Lindsey, 31, and Charles G. Rodriguez, 38, were each charged with one count of filing a false report and one count of conspiracy in connection with the June 3, 2011, drug arrest. The deputies, who were arrested and released on their own recognizance, are expected to be arraigned May 13. If convicted, they face a maximum of three years in prison.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Lindsey and Rodriguez have been relieved of duty without pay.
"We take this very seriously," he said.
Rodriguez and his attorney could not be reached for comment. Lindsey's attorney, Richard Shinee, declined to comment.
The charges against the deputies stem from their arrest of Abraham Rueda. According to the arrest report written by Lindsey, an informant had told them a man called Abraham was selling cocaine in the parking lot of a Huntington Park bar. When they arrived, the report said, they spotted Rueda standing next to the driver's side door of a Lexus SUV.
Lindsey wrote that he approached Rueda, "looked inside the driver's window" and saw "a plastic baggie containing white powder cocaine in the air vent under the car stereo." Lindsey stated he then took Rueda into custody on suspicion of narcotics possession and searched the car.
As Rueda's trial on drug charges approached, his attorney provided prosecutors with a videotape from a security camera at the parking lot that appeared to contradict the deputies' account of the arrest. The tape showed that Lindsey made contact with Rueda at the rear of the SUV, not by the driver's side door. And it showed that he was not in the position he stated he was in when he allegedly spotted the drugs, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege that Rodriguez lied in another report in which he wrote that a tow truck had taken the SUV from the bar parking lot to be impounded. Prosecutors allege in court documents that Lindsey drove the SUV from the scene.
As a result of the video, prosecutors dropped the charges against Rueda and referred the matter to the Sheriff's Department for further investigation.
Whitmore said he did not know why the deputies, who were assigned to the Century Station, were in Huntington Park, a city with its own police department. Lindsey is an eight-year department veteran whose father is a retired sheriff's commander, Whitmore said. Rodriguez is an 11-year veteran of the department.