Attorneys for two former Los Angeles Police partners convicted of perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice said Tuesday that a judge was right to sentence their clients to community labor instead of jail.
The lawyers applauded the judge for rejecting calls by the prosecutor on the case to incarcerate Evan Samuel and Richard Amio. The attorneys said their clients lived exemplary lives before the incident that led to their convictions.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor ordered that Samuel perform 750 hours of grafitti removal or similar intensive community labor and that Amio complete 500 hours. Both men were also placed on supervised probation for three years.
Lawyers for Samuel and Amio said their clients had spent a lifetime of commitment to public service and had many friends and relatives able to support them while on probation.
"The judge's sentencing was well-thought out," Amio's attorney, Robert Rico, said after Tuesday's hearing, adding that the sentence was "just and proper."
Rico told the judge that Amio studied at Cal Poly Pomona and volunteered with several associations for various minority groups on campus, including African-American, Mexican-American and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. After college, Amio worked as a youth counselor helping gang members and other troubled youngsters before joining the LAPD in 2002, Rico said.
In a letter to the judge, Samuel said he realized after completing the police academy that his passion in life was helping people and that he enjoyed persuading young gang members to stop associating with their gangs. “I am much more of a person than what has been presented to you in this case,” he wrote.
His attorney, Ira Salzman, said the community labor was onerous work but added that he was gratified by the sentence.
“This was a very, very generous vote of faith by the judge, who clearly understood that but for this case, [Samuel] lived a good life and had a lot of support,” Salzman said.
The sentences drew criticism from a lawyer representing a man who accused the officers of lying and framing him in a 2007 drug arrest. Deputy Public Defender Victor Acevedo called the punishments "way too lenient."
Acevedo produced a video during his client's trial that appeared to sharply contradict the officers' account of the arrest. The video was a key piece of evidence for the district attorney's office in the case against Samuel and Amio.
Pastor described his sentencing decision on Tuesday as among the most difficult a judge could face. The judge called the officers’ conduct “regrettably shameful” but said he also took into account the careers and lives they had led.
Samuel had faced a maximum sentence of more than seven years behind bars while Amio faced more than six years.
The district attorney's office had sought a minimum sentence of three years for both men, arguing in court papers that “the lies told throughout their reports and testimony ... were deliberate and malicious and constituted a sophisticated attempt to derail the administration of justice.”
Jurors found Samuel and Amio guilty of one count of conspiracy each and multiple counts of perjury.
Amio, 34, is on unpaid administrative leave from the LAPD. His disciplinary case was put on hold while his criminal case was pending.
Samuel, 41, joined the LAPD in 2002 and left for the Chino Police Department in 2008. He was fired while on probation in Chino after The Times reported on Alarcon’s drug case.
The same jury that convicted the officers deadlocked on conspiracy charges against a third officer, Manuel Ortiz, who was accused of falsely claiming in an earlier court hearing that he did not help his two colleagues search for the drugs. Jurors voted 11 to 1 in favor of Ortiz’s guilt. The district attorney’s office is planning to retry the case against Ortiz, who is on administrative leave.
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