Earlier this month, two LAPD officers were charged with perjury and felony conspiracy for writing a false police report and protecting a drunk driver against possible prosecution. Both officers deny their implication in the wrongdoing.
LAPD officers Rene Ponce and Irene Gomez were on duty on 26 October, 2014 when they were dispatched to a scene of a vehicle accident at the 3000 block of East Side Boulevard. The accident possibly involved a DUI driver that crashed into two parked cars. The officers chose not to carry out a sobriety test on the driver, as mandated by LAPD policy, or to conduct a drunk-driving investigation. Instead, they took the driver home and told him to get enough sleep, prosecutors stated. At a later time, during their report of the crash they lied about the accident, telling investigators that the person who caused the collision left the location of the accident.
However, a witness to the investigation, Larry Chavez, who lives in the neighborhood, observed the incident and told the investigators a different story . He said that he had woken up at daybreak because of a sudden noise. A white or grey Mustang crashed into two cars, failing to stop. Together with two other neighbors Chavez followed the driver and caught up with him. They kept the driver for the police. Chaves commented: “The driver was very drunk. When the police arrived they first talked to him for almost an hour and a half, then took him to their patrol car and left the scene”.
Rene Ponce has been with the Los Angeles Police Department for 13 years at the time, while Irene Gomez has been with the Department for three years. They are highly respected among colleagues and they had good record. Gomez’s defense attorney denied charges of conspiracy and other allegations. The defense claims that the officers acted in accordance with the official police practice. They rendered an account of the accident and towed the vehicle, according to the protocol.
Defense attorney claims, his client is not familiar with the DUI suspect and has never contacted him before. There is no rational explanation why a police officer would risk her career and presumably freedom to protect an intoxicated driver. The question remains, why the state waited two years to bring charges against the policewomen.
Ponce’s attorney, Bill Seki, refused to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Martha Carrillo, the prosecutor, also stated, there are no personal or professional connection between the officers and the driver. Moreover, the driver is not associated with any LAPD or law-enforcement authorities. LA prosecution do not reveal his identity because he is connected with the case as a witness.
Police brought police report of this hit and run case to the Los Angeles Prosecutor’s Office to initiate criminal court proceedings against the driver. California Hit and Run law, requires drivers to stop immediately if an accident happens, regardless of your involvement, and provide all required information. The city attorney rejected filing the criminal case against the suspected driver for hit and run or drunk driving.
Instead, the criminal charges were brought against Rene Ponce and Irene Gomez. Both policemen left the police force. If convicted they would face up to three years of imprisonment.
In California, a felony hit and run can subject a defendant to jail time between 16 months to 4 years. Some hit and run can be misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 1 year in the county jail.
The next court hearing for Ponce and Gomez will take place on 11 October, 2016.
If you are accused for DUI, please contact an experienced DUI attorney to defend your case and receive a prompt and qualified help and support.