Trial rests on video of bust
Footage shows county sheriff ’s deputies lied about drug arrest in 2011, prosecutors say.
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?”