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Deliberations Begin In East Bay ‘Dirty DUI’ Police Corruption Case

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Former Contra Costa County Sheriff's Deputy Stephen Tanabe. (CBS)

Former Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Deputy Stephen Tanabe. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A federal jury began deliberating in San Francisco Wednesday in the case of a former Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy accused of arranging three so-called “dirty DUI” arrests in Danville in 2010 and 2011.

The jury in the trial of former deputy Stephen Tanabe started deliberations shortly before noon, after defense attorney Tim Pori rested his case without presenting witnesses and after closing arguments.

Tanabe, 50, of Alamo, is accused of aiding former private investigator Christopher Butler in drunken driving stings targeting husbands of female clients of Butler’s who were seeking an advantage in divorce and custody cases.

He faces charges of conspiracy to deprive Contra Costa County of his honest services, wire fraud and extortion. Prosecutors allege he received cocaine and a Glock gun from Butler in exchange for the arrests.

Butler was one of two leaders, along with former narcotics squad commander Norman Wielsch, of a wide-ranging Contra Costa County police corruption scandal that included stealing and selling drug evidence, making phony arrests, and extorting protection payments from workers in a massage parlor the two men established.

Butler, 52, of Concord, pleaded guilty last year to seven charges, was sentenced to eight years in prison, and was a key prosecution witness against Tanabe in testimony this week.

Tanabe is accused only in connection with three drunken-driving arrests outside Danville bars on Nov. 2, 2010, and Jan. 9 and 14, 2011.

Butler, the sting victims and women who worked for Butler as decoys all testified that the targeted men were lured to meetings at Danville bars where they were enticed by Butler employees to become intoxicated.

When the men drove off, Butler alerted Tanabe, according to Butler. Tanabe summoned a fellow officer to make the first arrest, on a night that Tanabe was off-duty, and personally made the second and third arrests.

Pori told the jury in statements at the start and close of the trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer that Butler is a liar and “prolific con man” who had an incentive to incriminate Tanabe to obtain a sentence reduction.

The defense attorney contended that Tanabe was carrying out his duties and that there is no evidence, other than Butler’s testimony, that Tanabe received cocaine from him and no proof that a gun that he did receive was in payment for the arrests.

In addition to conspiracy, the charges against Tanabe include three counts of wire fraud and three counts of extortion under color of official right.

The wire fraud charges stem from text messages allegedly exchanged by Tanabe and Butler and the extortion charges pertain to the alleged payment of cocaine and the gun for carrying out official duties.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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