MARTINEZ (CBS 5) — Hundreds of drug cases could be in jeopardy following the arrest of the commander of the Central Contra Costa County Narcotic Enforcement Team on 22 drug-related felonies, defense lawyers told CBS 5 on Thursday.
Cmdr. Norman Wielsch, who has been with the state justice department’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement for the past 12 years and supervised the local drug task force known as CNET, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of distributing marijuana, methamphetamine and steroids.
Wielsch is accused of stealing drugs his own officers confiscated and allegedly resold them with the help of his friend – private investigator Chris Butler – who was also arrested Wednesday.
Sources close to the investigation told CBS 5 that the pair were caught in an undercover sting. Both men were set to be arraigned in court on Friday afternoon.
“I will tell you the legal community is certainly shocked by these allegations as well they should be,” said Michael Cardoza, a local defense lawyer hired to represent Wielsch.
The Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office indicated that hundreds of drug prosecutions stemming from task force investigations may be in jeopardy of dismissal.
“We have begun to go through our caseloads and pull out the cases that are open and pending charge, where CNET was the investigating agency, and we’ve uncovered a dozen of those cases. I expect there will be many more,” said Robin Lipetzky, the chief public defender.
The investigation is ongoing, but so far there is no indication that any other law enforcement personnel were involved in Wielsch and Butler’s alleged activities, according to the California Department of Justice.
“The best I can say is he’s devastated,” said Cardoza of Wielsch. “We are waiting to see what if any charges will be brought by the prosecuting agency.”
(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)