Former Danville Officer Charged in CNET Drug, 'Dirty DUI' Case

Stephen Tanabe of Alamo resigned from the Danville force after his March 4 arrest on drug and weapons charges.

Bay City News and staff reports — In the widening scandal involving law enforcement officers in Contra Costa County, prosecutors filed new charges today adding a former sheriff's deputy to the criminal complaint against a former local drug task force commander and a private investigator.

The 34-count criminal complaint adds charges against former Danville Police officer Stephen Tanabe, a 47-year-old Alamo resident, for conspiracy to possess, transport and sell a controlled substance; accepting a bribe; conspiracy to pervert and obstruct justice for conducting so-called "dirty DUI" arrests; conspiracy to falsely and maliciously procure another person to be arrested for a crime, also for the alleged "dirty DUI" scheme; and possession of an assault weapon.

The District Attorney's Office determined this week that Tanabe's role in the DUI setups was criminal, the Contra Costa Times reported. 

Norman Wielsch, commander of the Central Contra Costa County Narcotic Enforcement Team, and Christopher Butler, a Concord-based private investigator and former Antioch police officer, both 49, were charged in the original 28-count criminal complaint in February.

Court records say Wielsch stole drugs from law enforcement evidence lockers and Butler arranged to sell them or have them sold.

District Attorney Mark Peterson on Friday said Contra Costa prosecutors have decided to dismiss 15 pending criminal cases. They also have declined to file charges in five more cases involving so-called "dirty DUI" arrests.

The cases being dismissed include three felony drug cases and a misdemeanor drug case investigated by Wielsch's now suspended drug task force; 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.

At a press conference Friday, Peterson said his office had completed their review of all pending cases involving Wielsch and Tanabe. 

The new complaint filed Friday alleges Butler received steroids from Wielsch and gave samples and a price list to Tanabe. Tanabe then allegedly told an unnamed person that they could buy steroids from Butler.

Tanabe also is charged with participating in the DUI setups with Butler in which 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, who come from several East Bay cities, including Livermore, Clayton and Oakland, were in most cases involved in legal battles with their spouses. 

Wielsch and Butler have pleaded not guilty to the charges. A date for Tanabe's arraignment had not yet been set this afternoon.

Sheriff's deputy Tom Henderson, who was transferred from the Danville police force after Tanabe's arrest,  that an off-duty Tanabe called him on Nov. 2 to report a man who was about to leave a Danville wine bar and drive drunk. The man, a 47-year-old Oakland resident, was  arrested by Henderson and another Danville police officer on DUI charges. 

According to an affidavit filed in the case last month, Henderson said Tanabe told him that he and his "P.I" friend were following "a drunken, cheating husband" who was preparing to drive.

Henderson and his wife, a county prosecutor, said they alerted authorities of Tanabe's alleged role in the DUI setups on the day of Butler's arrest, the Times reported. That day is when they learned that Tanabe's "P.I. friend" was Butler.

Tanabe's attorney, Tom McKenna, told the Times that his client was unaware that Butler had hired women to get men drunk. McKenna said Tanabe just wanted to get drunken drivers off the road and protect public safety. 

Wielsch's attorney, Michael Cardoza, said his client was not involved in any of the "dirty DUI" arrests.

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

San Ramon police Chief Scott Holder, who is on the executive board of CNET, told the Times that the operations of the drug task force will stay on hold while the district attorney's office continues its investigation of the three defendants.  

Holder expects that the drug task force would be reactivated at some point, according to the Times. "A lot of good men and women worked in CNET over the years and have done great things," he said. 

Danville Police Chief Steve Simpkins to restore residents' faith in the town's police force of 30 officers who work in Danville through a contract with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department.

As Danville Patch reported earlier this week, Town Councilman Robert Storer and other residents expressed disappointment when learning about Tanabe's arrest. 

"We were all disappointed," Storer told Patch. "But after speaking with Steve Simpkins and (Town Manager) Joe Calabrigo, I feel like they are handling it admirably. These are isolated incidents that should not be a reflection of our Police Department."

Simpkins said he has been working with his officers to engage in more community outreach in the face of the scandal.


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