DOCUMENT: Celebrity

LAPD's Rihanna Leak Probe Has Been Completed

Two officers on paid leave, await ruling by police chief


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Rihanna Leak Probe

MARCH 7--Three years after a confidential police evidence photo showing Rihanna bloody and bruised was provided--and likely sold--to a gossip web site, Los Angeles cops have completed an internal affairs probe of the leak.

The results of the lengthy investigation were recently forwarded to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who now must decide what, if any, administrative penalties are warranted against two cops who have been targeted by the department probe.

The officers, Rebecca Reyes, 39, and Blanca Lopez, have each been on paid administrative leave for more than 30 months. Former housemates, Reyes and Lopez could face termination as a result of the Internal Affairs Group (IAG) probe, which has included the search of the pair’s respective residences.

Reyes’s lawyer, Ira Salzman, said that the IAG’s finding contained “no criminal allegations,” though he declined to discuss whether investigators have recommended the firing of his client, whom he said had no involvement in the photo’s leak/sale. A lawyer for Lopez did not return a TSG call.

Officer Cleon Joseph, an LAPD spokesman, refused to answer a series of written questions about the department’s investigation of the leak of the Rihanna photo, terming the probe a “confidential matter.”

The IAG investigation began soon after the web site TMZ published the Rihanna photo on February 19, 2009, less than two weeks after she was assaulted by singer Chris Brown while traveling in his rented Lamborghini. The shocking photo showed the singer, now 24, with welts, bruises, and scratches suffered during the harrowing attack, which was detailed in a court affidavit sworn by an LAPD detective.

Police reports show that Reyes, assigned to the LAPD’s Wilshire Division, was part of the initial detail working the assault case. At one point, she was included in the team dispatched to arrest Brown at L.A.’s London Hotel. Lopez, a rookie cop assigned to the Hollenbeck Division, had no role in the investigation of the assault by Brown, now 22.

IAG investigators have determined that the photo published by TMZ, which is headed by former TV journalist Harvey Levin, was one of dozens taken by an LAPD officer who responded to the Hancock Park neighborhood where a local resident heard Rihanna’s cries for help and called 911.

The TMZ image, however, was only a cropped portion of one of the police evidence photos. The original LAPD image shows Rihanna’s shoulders and most of her chest, where a red welt can be seen above her left breast. The singer was photographed on the street, near Brown’s Lamborghini (which he abandoned after the attack).

While the evidence photo makes it appear that Rihanna is topless, she is actually wearing a strapless dress. Earlier that night, she was photographed (as seen above) in the garment while attending a Grammy Awards party with Brown.

The photo published by TMZ is of a markedly poorer quality than the source image, indicating that it was not a digital copy of the actual LAPD evidence photo. Instead, it seems that the published image obtained/purchased by Levin (pictured at right in a powdered wig) is a photo of a photo, likely snapped off a computer screen with a cell phone.

Since the photos of a battered Rihanna were accessible by a relatively small number of  LAPD cops, suspicion immediately fell on Hollenbeck Division officers--like Reyes--who were involved in the investigation of the assault. It remains unclear, however, what led IAG probers to focus on Reyes and Lopez, whose homes were raided after cops secured search warrants that established probable cause to believe that the officers had engaged in criminal conduct. (4 pages)