2011-12-20 "Ex-cop allegedly took coke, gun for 'dirty DUIs'" by Justin Berton from "San Francisco Chronicle"
A former Danville patrol officer accepted cocaine and a gun from a private investigator as payment to ensure three men were pulled over for "dirty DUI" arrests, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Monday.
Stephen Tanabe, 48, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Oakland to four felony charges of extortion under color of official right. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was freed on bail after his father, Richard Tanabe of Hawaii, agreed to secure a $400,000 bond against a home he owns in Alamo.
The indictment said Stephen Tanabe, a former Contra Costa County deputy sheriff who was assigned to patrol Danville, had been compensated by private eye Christopher Butler, 50, who in turn was hired by women involved in divorce, child custody or family disputes.
On two occasions in January, Tanabe waited outside a Danville bar in his patrol car and pulled over men after decoys employed by Butler had "enticed the target to drink until he was intoxicated," the indictment said.
Tanabe falsely stated in his incident reports that he had been on "routine patrol" when he crossed paths with the inebriated drivers, the indictment said.
In a third incident in November 2010, prosecutors say, an off-duty Tanabe sat with Butler in a bar and watched across the room as the private detective's employees conducted a sting on a targeted man.
Tanabe then called a nearby on-duty deputy sheriff assigned to Danville and had the man arrested on drunken-driving charges, the indictment said.
In exchange for the arrests, Butler gave Tanabe cocaine and a firearm, according to the indictment.
Butler's attorney, William Gagen, said his client gave Tanabe $200 worth of cocaine for the 2010 arrest and a Glock handgun after the Jan. 14 DUI arrest of a Livermore winemaker.
Gagen said Butler had been given 10 handguns by Glock, which was sponsoring the detective's attempt to land a reality TV show tentatively called "P.I. Moms of San Francisco."
"There is plenty of evidence to corroborate what Mr. Butler has said," Gagen said.
Tim Pori, Tanabe's attorney, said his client had simply been doing his duty to investigate leads that Butler provided when he had the men arrested.
"Every police officer has to follow up on reports that drunk drivers are taking to the road," Pori said, "no matter where that report comes from or who it comes from."
The defense attorney said Tanabe hadn't known that Butler was hiring decoys to get the men drunk. He also denied that Tanabe had accepted cocaine or a gun from Butler.
Butler was indicted in August on felony drug and corruption charges with Norman Wielsch, 50, a former state Department of Justice agent who once commanded an antidrug task force in Contra Costa County. Both men pleaded not guilty and are free on bail.
In a written confession to prosecutors in March, Butler also said he and Wielsch had operated a brothel in Pleasant Hill that fronted as a massage parlor. Wielsch has denied any involvement in the alleged brothel.
In addition to the federal charges, Tanabe pleaded not guilty earlier this year in state court to bribery and conspiracy charges connected to the two drunken-driving arrests he made in Danville in January.
Pori said the grand jury's indictment was based on Butler's confession, and that the former private investigator was motivated to lie about Tanabe to lessen any prison sentence he might receive.
"If all the government has is Butler's word, then it's the word of a liar, a thief, a drug dealer and a pimp," Pori said. "Butler is singing for his supper."
Former Danville patrol Officer Stephen Tanabe is accused of arranging DUI arrests.
Lacy Atkins / The Chronicle