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Contra Costa DA Dismisses 15 Cases Amid Scandals

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Norman Wielsch, Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team CNET commander

Norman Wielsch, former Commander of the Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team (CBS)

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MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — As part of the fallout from a criminal case involving two Contra Costa County law enforcement officers, prosecutors have dismissed 15 pending criminal cases and declined to file charges in five more cases involving so-called “dirty DUI” arrests, District Attorney Mark Peterson said Friday.

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

The cases being dismissed include three felony drug cases and a misdemeanor drug case investigated by the now suspended Central Contra Costa County Narcotic Enforcement Team; five felony prostitution cases and five misdemeanor prostitution cases also investigated by CNET; and five misdemeanor cases investigated by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s office.

Peterson said his office had completed their review of all pending cases involving former CNET Commander Norman Wielsch, 49, and former sheriff’s deputy Stephen Tanabe, 47.

The two men have been charged along with private investigator and former Antioch police officer Christopher Butler, 49, in a 34-count criminal complaint.

Butler and Wielsch, who were charged in February, have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy; selling methamphetamine, marijuana and steroids; and possessing methamphetamine, marijuana and steroids for sale.

According to attorneys on the case, Wielsch allegedly stole drugs from law enforcement evidence lockers and Butler arranged to sell them or have them sold.

Charges against Tanabe were added to the complaint Friday. He was arraigned in Contra Costa County Superior Court this afternoon on three counts of conspiracy – conspiracy to sell steroids, conspiracy to obstruct justice and conspiracy to falsely arrest; one count of accepting a bribe; and three counts involving an assault weapon, Peterson said.

The amended complaint filed Friday also includes new charges for Butler for allegedly conspiring with Tanabe to conduct “dirty DUI” arrests.

In those cases, Butler allegedly hired attractive women to lure men to bars and get them drunk. He would then allegedly call Tanabe and have the men arrested for drunken driving as they were leaving, according to the complaint.

The men in these cases were often the husbands of Butler’s clients who were involved in legal battles with their spouses.

Wielsch and Butler have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Tanabe has not yet entered a plea.

All three men are free on bail and are scheduled to return to court April 24.

San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder, who headed CNET for the state Department of Justice, said the task force has been suspended indefinitely.

Wielsch’s attorney Michael Cardoza has said Wielsch has admitted to the charges and has been cooperating with the investigation.

“My client had early acceptance of responsibility for the things that he did do,” Wielsch’s attorney Michael Cardoza said Friday.

Cardoza said Wielsch was not involved in any of the “dirty DUI” arrests.

Butler and Tanabe’s attorneys did not return calls seeking comment.

When asked whether any additional charges or arrests in the case were expected, Peterson said, “The investigation is ongoing.”

He did, however, say that with the information his office has so far, he does not expect to dismiss any more cases.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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