LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Three more LAPD officers have been charged with falsifying records and misidentifying people they stopped as gang members, the District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday.
The charges, filed Thursday, accuse Rene Braga, 40, Raul Uribe, 34, and Julio Garcia, 36, of falsifying field interview cards while on duty, according to the D.A.’s office. Some of the information on the cards was used to wrongfully enter these people into the state gang database.
Prosecutors said that they allegedly wrote on a several field information cards that a person admitted to being a gang member, even though body camera footage shows that they either never asked the individuals about gang membership, or that the people denied gang membership when asked.
Braga, Uribe, and Garcia were arrested at 7 a.m. Friday morning and released from jail on their own recognizance within three hours, according to jai records.
Braga is charged with one count each of filing a false police report and preparing false documentary evidence, and could face a maximum of three years and eight months in county jail if convicted as charged.
Uribe and Garcia are charged with one count each of preparing false documentary evidence, and could face up to three years in jail if found guilty.
They are set to be arraigned on Feb. 5 at the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
These charges come less than three months after three other officers who worked at the LAPD’s Metro Division — Braxton Shaw, Michael Coblentz and Nicolas Martinez — were charged with similar crimes.
Shaw, 37, is charged with 43 counts of preparing false documentary evidence involving the field interview cards, along with eight counts of filing a false report and one count of conspiracy. He faces up to 31 years and eight months in county jail if convicted as charged.
The conspiracy charge alleges that Shaw falsely documented that some people were gang members with gang tattoos and gang monikers. It also claims that he falsely documented a “fictional person” as a gang member on 15 occasions from March 2018 to January 2019.
Coblentz, 43, is charged with seven counts of preparing false documentary evidence, five counts of filing a false report and one count of conspiracy. He could face up to seven years and eight months in jail if convicted as charged.
Martinez, 37, is charged with two counts each of preparing false documentary evidence and filing a false report, as well as one count of conspiracy. He could face up to four years and four months in jail if convicted as charged.
All three were released on their own recognizance shortly after being arrested July 10, and are set to appear in court Oct. 13 for arraignment.
The charges stemmed from a “misconduct investigation” conducted by the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Group and monitored by the Office of the Inspector General, according to the department.
The initial alleged misconduct would disrupt criminal cases against as many as 750 defendants, according to reporting by the L.A. Times that was confirmed by the D.A.’s office.
“There could be some cases out there where there are wrongful convictions,” said L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey. “When you’re charged with a crime like that, where it’s alleged that you lied, your credibility becomes an issue and every case you ever touched in terms of a witness now has to be reviewed.”
Gang allegations allow prosecutors to seek harsher sentences against defendants, if the jury finds the allegations to be true. However, the basis for the criminal charges against some of the people arrested by the officers could be at stake, because their testimony and reports will likely hold little confidence at trial.
Past convictions may also be overturned if defense attorneys can argue that testimony given by any of the three officers was damaging to their case.
After the first three officers were charged, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said on Twitter: “Public trust is the bedrock of community policing and these allegations shake that foundation. The actions of these few tarnish the badge we all wear. The department is committed to continuing this comprehensive investigation in our effort to restore the confidence of the people we protect and serve.”
At the time, LAPD said in a statement that 21 more officers were still being investigated, with 10 assigned to home and eight assigned to administrative duties. Five remain in the field, and one has retired since the investigation began, according to the LAPD.
All Metropolitan personnel have been retrained on the proper completion of FI cards, and the department has increased the frequency of random audits of body-worn cameras.
The officers charged in July were put on leave in January, and the LAPD said one of the officers has been relieved from duty, and the other two have been relieved of police powers. The LAPD has since placed a moratorium on using the CalGang system, a statewide database used by law enforcement for sharing intelligence regarding potential gang members.