ONE BRUTAL NIGHT IN WEST PHOENIX

WHEN IT WAS OVER, PHOENIX COP JOE PEREZ ADMITTED HE'D DONE WRONG. LOOK WHERE IT GOT HIM.

Cherry heard about Perez's case through the cop grapevine, and he volunteered to help him. He had his own share of run-ins with the Phoenix Police Department during his 20-year cop career, and Cherry says he sympathized with Perez's plight.

I didn't know Joe from dirt," says Cherry, now a high-ranking official with the NAACP, but I learned that he and his family have suffered more mental and economic damage than most criminals ever do."

Cherry-a black man who previously has accused the Phoenix Police Department of racism-bristles when asked if he would be so adamant if Perez had been white. I'm looking at Perez as a human being, not as a Hispanic," Cherry says. I'm not trying to glorify what he did, but if you've never been there, you haven't been doing your job."

Perez was in a tough spot: What he said before the Civil Service Board could be used against him at his pending criminal trial. But he had to raise a defense if he had any chance of regaining his job.

Prosecutor Bill Moore sat in the rear of the fifth-floor hearing room and scribbled pages of notes. For Moore it was a wonderful opportunity to see and hear how his witnesses in the criminal case came across in a kind of courtroom setting.

Alan Simpson, Perez's court-appointed attorney in the criminal case, wasn't present.

Perez decided to testify without invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Man, I've been telling the same story since the minute this happened," he says. What's the big deal?"

Ron Cherry did his best, but he was outgunned by assistant city attorney Nancy Kesteloot, who fights these kinds of appeals for a living.

On April 6, hearing officer Parker concluded in a nine-page decision: Perez is too much of a liability to himself, his peers, the public and the City to be allowed to function as a police officer."

Last week, the Civil Service Board agreed and unanimously upheld Perez's firing.

Perez says prosecutor Moore offered him a plea bargain through his attorney: If Perez pleaded guilty to assaulting Mauricio Rodriquez, Moore would ask a judge to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. (Moore won't discuss the plea negotiations.)

But Perez says he'll take his chances with a jury, especially after the shocking recent verdict in the Rodney King case.

Even Mauricio Rodriquez says he isn't sure if he wants Perez to be the scapegoat for everything that happened that night. What about everybody else-the other guys, the sergeant?"

Perez's wife, Cynthia, wants to move back to their native Florida after this is all over, whether they sell their home or not. It saddens her to watch her husband mope around the house daily, wracked with guilt and bitterness.

We need to make a fresh start real bad," she says. I want Joe to be like he was, before that night. I want him to be happy. I want him to be Joe again."part 2 of 2

TEXAS RIBBER ROBERT EARL KEEN JR.'S SONG... v5-13-92

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