They were at the tail end of their overnight shift when they spotted Gerald Simmons near a vacant lot in Inglewood.

The two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies said they saw the 43-year-old toss a plastic baggie of rock cocaine to the ground.

Their testimony would become the backbone of the 2009 criminal case against Simmons.

After a six-day trial, the verdict was swift. Guilty.

But jurors made their decision without knowing a crucial detail.

Jose Ovalle, one of the deputies who also booked the evidence, had been suspended five years earlier for pouring taco sauce on a shirt to mimic blood in a criminal case. He nearly lost his job.

Ovalle’s past was kept secret for years from prosecutors, judges, defendants and jurors, even though he was a potential witness in hundreds of criminal cases that relied on his credibility, according to a Times investigation.

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