Three Los Angeles Police Department officers pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that they falsified records that claimed people they had stopped were gang members or gang associates.
Braxton Shaw, 38, Michael Coblentz, 44, and Nicolas Martinez, 37, were charged just over a year ago with one count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice and multiple counts of filing a false police report and preparing false documentary evidence.
The three — who were assigned at the time to the Metropolitan Division — are among six LAPD officers who were charged last year with falsifying records.
Shortly after the charges were announced, the LAPD noted that one of the defendants — without specifying which one — was “relieved from duty” in January 2020 when Moore concluded that the officer’s actions were “a serious violation of department policy.” That officer was “directed to an administrative tribunal for the purpose of removal,” according to the LAPD, which said the other two officers were assigned to home duty.
The LAPD could not be reached for immediate comment on the current employment status of the three, whose next court date is set Oct. 8.
Shaw, Coblentz and Martinez are accused of falsifying field interview cards that are used by officers to conduct on-duty interviews and misidentifying dozens of people as gang members, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Some of the false information contained in the cards was used to wrongfully enter people into a state gang database, prosecutors allege.
In some instances, the three are accused of writing on field interview cards that a person they stopped admitted being a gang member, even though video from body-worn cameras showed that the individual was never asked that question. In other instances, the defendants allegedly wrote on field interview cards that a person interviewed admitted to being a gang member even though the person denied it.
Shaw could face up to 31 years and eight months in county jail if convicted of 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.
The overt acts included with the conspiracy charge allege that Shaw falsely documented some people as gang members with gang tattoos and gang monikers and that he falsely documented a “fictional person” as a gang member on 15 occasions between March 2018 and January 2019.
Coblentz allegedly falsified seven field interview cards. He is charged with seven counts of preparing false documentary evidence, five counts of filing a false report and one count of conspiracy, and could face up to seven years and eight months behind bars if found guilty.
Martinez — who allegedly falsified two field interview cards — is charged with two counts each of preparing false documentary evidence and filing a false report and one count of conspiracy, and could face a maximum of four years and four months in jail if convicted, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
They were each released on their own recognizance shortly after their arrests last July by the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division.
In a statement posted on Twitter after the arrests were announced, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said, “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.”
The charges against the three 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.
Three other LAPD officers who had also worked at the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division — Rene Braga, 40, Raul Uribe, 35, and Julio Garcia, 37 — were charged last October with falsifying records. They pleaded not guilty at a March 16 court hearing and are due back in court next week, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require them to stand trial.