LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles Prosecutor's Office is currently investigating hundreds of criminal cases after three LAPD officials have been charged with falsifying gang membership records.
Braxton Shaw (37), Michael Coblentz (43) and Nicolas Martinez (36) were indicted in July for conspiracy to obstruct the judiciary and for multiple submissions of a false police report and false evidence.
The officers were assigned to the LAPD's Metropolitan Division at the time when they allegedly forged field interview cards and misidentified dozens of people who were stopped by the officers as gang members.
Prosecutors say some of the incorrect information on the cards was used to incorrectly register people in the California gait database.
MORE: 3 LAPD officers charged with falsifying field interview cards to incorrectly identify people as gang members
The alleged wrongdoing would upset criminal cases against up to 750 defendants, according to the L.A. Times, reported by the D.A. has been confirmed.
"There could be some cases where there are false beliefs," said District Attorney Jackie L. Lacey. "If you are charged with such a crime that you allegedly lied to, your credibility becomes a problem and any case you have ever touched on a witness needs to be reviewed now."
Gang allegations allow prosecutors to impose harsher sentences on the accused if the jury believes the allegations are true. However, the basis for criminal charges against some of the people arrested by the officials could be at risk, as their statements and reports are unlikely to be trusted in the trial.
Earlier convictions can also be overturned if defense attorneys can argue that one of the three officials' statements harmed her case.
Lacey said that when charges were brought against the officials, she asked the prosecutor to confirm all of the information contained in the field interview cards with other available evidence, such as body camera footage, to ensure the information was accurate.
Lacey said her office had sent letters to more than 750 defendants, whose cases affected one or more of the accused officers. The L.A. Times reviewed prosecutors' records and found that the three accused officials in 2002 had committed cases of crime, including murders.
"They range from the smallest drug cases to more serious cases like assault," said Lacey.
She and LAPD chief Michel Moore told the LA Times that just because one of the accused officials was involved in a case does not mean that he is automatically knocked over or thrown away.
"The officials, though listed as a summoned witness, may not have seen anything, are not a key player, or there may be other witnesses who have confirmed that a crime has occurred," The Times said.
MORE: DOJ revokes LAPD access to the CalGang database after a gang framing scandal
The LAPD has announced that 21 more officers are under investigation for the completion of field interview cards that could jeopardize decisions in thousands of criminal cases.
Shaw, Coblentz and Martinez were released at their own discretion by the LAPD's Home Affairs Department shortly after their arrest on July 10. They are expected to be charged on October 13 in downtown Los Angeles courthouse.
Shaw, who could be up to 31 years and eight months in district prison if convicted, is charged with 43 cases of false evidence for the field interview cards, eight cases of submission of a false report, and one conspiracy case.
The overt acts included in the conspiracy allegation state that Shaw incorrectly documented some people as gang members with gang tattoos and gang monikers, and that between March 2018 and January 2019 he incorrectly documented a "fictional person" as gang member 15 times Has.
Coblentz allegedly faked seven field interview cards. He is charged with seven cases of false evidence, five cases for submitting a false report, and one case of conspiracy, and could be behind bars for up to seven years and eight months if found guilty.
Martinez, who allegedly forged two field interview cards, is charged with double-preparing false evidence and submitting a false report and conspiracy, and could expect a maximum of four years and four months in prison, according to the DA.
The LAPD said that one of the defendants – one of the three accused officials was unspecified – was "removed from duty" in January when Moore found that the official's actions were "a serious violation of the department's policies."
According to the LAPD, this officer was "referred to an administrative court for removal", after which the other two officers were assigned to home work.
According to the LAPD, 10 of the 21 other officers examined were "at home until the results of the investigation are available", eight are assigned administrative tasks, five remain on site and one has retired since the beginning of the investigation.
In a statement on Twitter shortly after the arrests, Moore said: “Public trust is the foundation of the local police, and these allegations shake this basis. The actions of these few tarnish the badge that we all wear. The department is committed to continuing this in-depth investigation to restore the trust of the people we protect and serve. "
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)