DA LET BAD COP SLIDE NO CHARGES FILED AGAINST OFFICER IN VICIOUS BEATING.
Despite blood-spattered walls and compelling evidence gathered by police, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office refused to prosecute a corrupt former Rampart police officer who was fired for a vicious station-house beating, a Daily News investigation has learned.
On two separate occasions during the past 18 months, the District Attorney's Office rejected requests from top LAPD officials and detectives investigating the widening Rampart scandal to bring criminal charges against former Officer Brian Hewitt, according to documents obtained by the Daily News.
The documents for the first time reveal the scope of the evidence compiled by LAPD detectives against Hewitt, including samples of blood splattered on the walls of the Rampart Station, which were matched to the victim's DNA; testimony from an emergency room doctor detailing the victim's injuries; testimony from several citizens and law enforcement personnel; and a piece of carpet from the Rampart Station that is soaked with the victim's bloody vomit.
Only recently have county prosecutors agreed to take another look at what investigators and an LAPD disciplinary board called the ``malicious and egregious'' treatment Hewitt inflicted upon a handcuffed gangbanger in 1998.
The DA's previous handling of the case could prevent Hewitt from ever being prosecuted effectively, sources close to the special LAPD corruption task force said. Federal prosecutors also are eyeing the case.
The documents obtained by the Daily News raise questions about the role of District Attorney Gil Garcetti's office's oversight of police misconduct and its willingness to prosecute rogue cops.
Much of the focus of the LAPD scandal until now has been on the breakdown of internal discipline in the LAPD, which allowed officers in the Rampart Division CRASH unit - Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums - to systematically violate the rights of dozens of people. In this case, police initiated an immediate and thorough investigation of the station-house attack and Chief Bernard Parks fired Hewitt, acting on the recommendation of the Board of Rights, a panel of officers who hear disciplinary cases.
The District Attorney's Office twice found the evidence insufficient.
Garcetti's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons declined comment, saying only that Hewitt's name has been mentioned recently as part of the district attorney's ongoing investigation of several LAPD officers. ``We have several cases under investigation, and we're not going to comment on any of them.''
Garcetti has been sharply criticized by his two opponents in the March 7 primary over his 1996 decision to abandon the district attorney's rollout team, which investigated police shootings. The DA's challengers charge he is more concerned with re-election than with playing a vigorous role in investigating the massive LAPD corruption scandal. Garcetti has denied those accusations.
Hewitt could not be reached and has denied that the beating took place.
Parks fired Hewitt last year for attacking Ismael Jimenez, a muscular 18th Street Gang member with a long criminal rap sheet. The chief acted on the recommendation of the Board of Rights, which conducted a hearing on the matter last June. The board found Hewitt guilty on six counts related to the incident.
LAPD Cmdr. Dave Kalish, a spokesman for Parks, said Sunday that the department still believes Hewitt should be prosecuted. ``Obviously, we are very eager to move forward. We believe that we have provided sufficient evidence for a criminal filing. However, we certainly understand the DA's responsibility to proceed strategically.''
Jimenez could not be reached.
The tale of abuse comes straight from the police dungeon.
According to LAPD documents, Hewitt wrongfully arrested and detained Jimenez in February 1998. After hauling Jimenez and a friend to the Rampart detectives station, Hewitt punched the gangbanger in the chest and stomach repeatedly, and choked him, the official documents reveal.
Hewitt also shoved Jimenez, while he was handcuffed, causing his head to strike the interview room wall. Following the attack, Jimenez vomited at least four times and sought treatment at a nearby hospital, where a doctor noted his injuries, records indicate.
Hewitt is one of many current and former LAPD Rampart anti-gang officers identified by corrupt-cop-turned-informant Rafael Perez as being involved in abusing and framing innocent people for crimes between 1995 and 1998. Perez agreed to talk to investigators in exchange for a lenient sentence for stealing cocaine from an LAPD evidence locker.
Sources close to the probe said Hewitt remains under investigation for possible criminal misconduct, including a July 1996 shooting described by Perez as dirty.
The District Attorney's Office issued a report to the LAPD in March stipulating its reasons for not prosecuting Hewitt for the Jimenez beating. The county prosecutors concluded that there was ``insufficient evidence'' to prove in court that Hewitt assaulted Jimenez. The office argued there were no witnesses, except possibly another gang member, and no photographs of his injuries.
All of the major reasons cited by the District Attorney's Office for not putting Hewitt on trial were rejected by the LAPD Board of Rights last June when Hewitt was fired, newly obtained documents reveal.
The board reportedly made its decision not on the basis of the testimony of Jimenez or Hewitt, but on the physical evidence and statements from several witnesses, including the emergency room doctor, the hospital's security guard, a man who saw Jimenez vomit outside the station house, and an LAPD criminalist who analyzed the evidence and DNA results. Sources close to the LAPD investigation also said photographs clearly showing Jimenez's injuries were taken.
The LAPD disciplinary board concluded: ``We see these as mistakes of the heart in that striking or physically punishing a handcuffed prisoner is a malicious and egregious act that cannot be mitigated in any way.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 14, 2000|
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