Trial rests on video of bust

Footage shows county sher­iff ’s deputies lied about drug ar­rest in 2011, pros­e­cu­tors say.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Marisa Ger­ber marisa.ger­ber @la­times.com

A Los An­ge­les County sher­iff ’s deputy lied in a po­lice re­port and con­spired with his part­ner in con­nec­tion with a 2011 drug bust at a bar in Hunt­ing­ton Park, a pros­e­cu­tor told ju­rors Wed­nes­day.

Dur­ing closing ar­gu­ments in the crim­i­nal trial of Robert Lind­sey and Charles Ro­driguez, Deputy Dist. Atty. Gretchen Ford said the man ar­rested at the Du­rango Bar had a “sur­prise friend” at the bar that night: a sur­veil­lance cam­era. The record­ing of the of­fi­cers’ en­counter with Abra­ham Rueda con­tra­dicted many de­tails from Lind­sey’s ar­rest re­port, she said.

“Much of the truth comes from that cam­era,” she said.

Lind­sey, 33, faces a count of fil­ing a false po­lice re­port and Ro­driguez, 40, a count of be­ing an ac­ces­sory af­ter the fact. Both deputies are ac­cused of con­spir­acy in con­nec­tion with the June 3, 2011, drug bust.

The charges were filed af­ter Lind­sey wrote an ar­rest re­port in which he said an in­for­mant had told the deputies that a man named “Abra­ham” sold co­caine in the park­ing lot of the bar.

The re­port said that the deputies saw Rueda stand­ing near a Lexus SUV and that Lind­sey walked up to Rueda, looked in­side the ve­hi­cle and saw a bag­gie of “white pow­der co­caine in the air vent un­der the car stereo.” Lind­sey stated he took Rueda into cus­tody on sus­pi­cion of nar­cotics pos­ses­sion and searched the car.

On Wed­nes­day, Ford said the video shows that Lind­sey didn’t have a clear view of the area where he said he saw the bag of co­caine. And even if he had some­how been able to see it, she said, Lind­sey doesn’t show “one iota” of body lan­guage in the video to sug­gest that he’d spot­ted some­thing.

She said Lind­sey lied in the ar­rest re­port to jus­tify his search of the ve­hi­cle.

“They can’t just ar­rest peo­ple at ran­dom,” the pros­e­cu­tor said, “which ac­tu­ally is what hap­pened in this case.”

Ford said that the video dis­cred­ited an­other de­tail in Lind­sey’s re­port — that he con­tacted Rueda next to the driver’s side win­dow of a Lexus and asked him his name. The pros­e­cu­tor ar­gued that Lind­sey’s ac­count that they ap­proached Rueda af­ter re­ceiv­ing a tip from a re­li­able con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant was also in­ac­cu­rate, say­ing that there was no ev­i­dence that the in­for­mant was re­li­able.

But Ro­driguez’s at­tor­ney, James E. Blatt, told ju­rors that the in­for­ma­tion from the in­for­mant panned out. He said the deputies showed up at the bar — which Blatt said is known for drug ac­tiv­ity — and found a sus­pect match­ing the man’s de­scrip­tion of “Abra­ham.”

“I would hardly call that ran­dom,” Blatt said. “I call that good po­lice work.”

Dur­ing his closing ar­gu­ments, Lind­sey’s at­tor­ney, Bradley Brunon, said that there was “no mo­tive” for the of­fi­cers to lie and that the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice had — with­out rea­son — ru­ined the lives of the deputies and their fam­i­lies.

“You can end this tragedy, this farce,” he told ju­rors be­fore ask­ing them to find his client not guilty.

Brunon added that Lind­sey’s lack of body lan­guage in the video didn’t mean he hadn’t seen drugs in the car.

“What’s he sup­posed to do?” the at­tor­ney asked. “Point?”

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