LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles prosecutors have dropped a drug charge against a man whose attorney claims narcotics were planted on his client by police, all of which was caught on the Los Angeles Police Department officers’ own body cameras.
The L.A. District Attorney announced a plea bargain Wednesday with Ronald Shields, 52, dropping an additional weapons charge for a gun found in his trunk during an April 2017 hit-and-run stop.
Shields was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge.
In November, CBS2 News reported on exclusive body-cam footage obtained by investigative reporter David Goldstein that Shields’ defense attorney said shows an officer planting a small bag of cocaine in Shields’ wallet during the incident.
In one of the 12 videos obtained by Goldstein, footage from a body cam opposite LAPD Officer Samuel Lee shows him pointing at a handcuffed Shields after an officer identified as “Gaxiola” picks up a small bag off the ground that later tested positive for cocaine. He then picks up a wallet.
“There’s a little bag of narco inside the wallet,” Gaxiola can be heard saying multiple times. He eventually appears to place the drugs in Shields’ wallet.
In court, as in the official police report, Lee stated the cocaine was found in Shields’ left pocket, directly contradicting the video evidence.
This was the first time the LAPD had released body-cam footage since the department’s program began in 2015.
Asked whether CBS2’s reporting had anything to do with the plea agreement, Shields’ defense attorney Steve Levine said: “This case blew up, and you were out there asking lots of hard questions to a lot of people, and it was the video that showed the mishandling of evidence. So, of course, it might have had something to do with it.”
When pressed by Goldstein at a November hearing on his contradictory claim, Gaxiola answered, “No comment.”
“Would your client be walking out of court today with a misdemeanor if not for those body cameras?” Goldstein asked Levine Wednesday.
“Maybe not,” responded the attorney.
The District Attorney’s Office would not comment on whether the CBS2 investigation led to the plea deal.
The LAPD would not comment on the case, as the officers involved are still being investigated.