State drops police misconduct case, lets Feds take the reins

The case against three law enforcement officers and a private investigator involved in a Contra Costa County drug squad misconduct scandal was dropped today by the district attorney's office as the federal cases continue, attorneys said.

Norman Wielsch, 50, former commander of the now-defunct Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team, or CNET, former private investigator Christopher Butler, 49, former Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy Stephen Tanabe, 48, and former San Ramon police officer Louis Lombardi, 39, all face federal charges in the misconduct case.

Before federal authorities took over the case, the defendants were charged in state court for alleged offenses ranging from possessing and

selling drugs and stolen firearms to allegations that Wielsh and Butler extorted money from employees at an illegal massage parlor.

Prosecutors today said that they dismissed the state charges to avoid interfering with the federal prosecutors' cases.

"We therefore move to dismiss these charges, without prejudice to our right to re-file them in the future should the need arise," Deputy District Attorney Hal Jewett said in a written statement. "However, given the progress the federal charges have made, and the probable measure of justice imposed in those cases, we believe it is highly unlikely we will need to

return to this court in this matter."

Late last month, Lombardi pleaded guilty to all charges against him in federal court and admitted to stealing thousands of dollars in cash and property during searches of suspects' homes while working for CNET, among other crimes.

He faces a maximum sentence of more than 60 years in federal prison and is set to be sentenced in April.

A trial date has not yet been set the three other defendants, although Wielsch and Butler are scheduled to appear in federal court for a status conference on March 20.

Michael Cardoza, Wielsch's attorney, has said his client has admitted to committing some, but not all of the crimes with which he is charged and is negotiating a plea deal with federal attorneys.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm

wow, my second post of the day.
Anyway, how much did the taxpayers spend on this little exercise? Seems a bit fishy that it's now been turned over to the feds (MUCH less local exposure and potential bad ink).
DA dropped the case to "avoid interfering with the federal case"???
Seriously? who are you trying to kid? There totally independent judicial systems (and courts). what a joke. Lombardi pled guilty, convict him and put him away, what are you doing dropping the case???

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