A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was given community service after pleading no contest Thursday to planting firearms at a South L.A. marijuana dispensary to justify making an arrest, officials said Thursday.
Julio Cesar Martinez, 44, entered the plea on one felony count of false report filed by a peace officer after striking an agreement with prosecutors, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
The defendant was ordered to complete 300 hours of community service within two years.
After Martinez’s plea, prosecutors dropped the charges against a second deputy accused in the case “in the interest of justice,” according to the DA’s release.
Anthony Manuel Paez, 32, had been facing two counts of perjury and one count each of filing a false report, conspiracy to obstruct justice and peace officer altering evidence.
In the August 2011 police report that sparked the charges, the two deputies allegedly wrote that Martinez saw a man named Antonio Rhodes complete a “hand-to-hand narcotics transaction and reach for a firearm in his front shorts pocket area,” according to a criminal complaint.
The pair was patrolling West 84th Place at the time, officials said. The street is in South L.A., which is the Los Angeles Police Department’s jurisdiction — not the Sheriff’s Department’s.
Police confirmed the incident occurred at Superior Herbal Health, located at 1011 West 84th Place in South L.A. It’s still unclear why the men were there, and the complaint also alleged that the deputies did not obtain a search warrant before entering the shop.
Martinez was accused of falsely stating he followed someone inside the dispensary and found “a discarded firearm near a trash bin and another firearm on top of a desk next to ecstasy pills,” the DA’s office previously said.
The complaint states that the deputy actually crawled under a desk and disabled the shop’s surveillance system, then planted two handguns on top of the desk before taking another firearm from a drawer and putting it on a chair. He also allegedly cut the location’s electricity.
Two arrests were ultimately made. Rhodes was falsely detained for possessing an unregistered firearm, and Johnny Yang was falsely arrested for possessing ecstasy pills in the presence of a firearm.
Yang was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading no contest in the case.
The deputies’ story began to crumble in 2012, when the Sheriff’s Department launched an internal investigation into video uncovered from inside the dispensary that was inconsistent with Martinez’s crime reports.
Martinez was a 15-year veteran of the force and Paez was a 7-year veteran before they were “separated from” their jobs in February 2013 and “appropriate administrative action was taken,” according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Both were charged in April 2014. Although Martinez was originally charged with another felony count, conspiracy to obstruct justice, that charge was apparently dropped as part of his plea agreement.
If the former deputies had been convicted as charged, they each could have faced more than seven years in state prison.