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San Ramon Officer Delays Plea; His Case is Linked to Wider Corruption Probe, Including a Civil Suit Over the Killing of a Suspect

Officer Louis Lombardi, who is free on bail, appeared in court Thursday along with former drug force commander Norman Wielsch.

WALNUT CREEK – A San Ramon policeman arrested as part of a widespread corruption probe appeared in court Thursday morning to ask for more time before he enters a plea.

Officer Louis Lombardi, 38, is due back in court June 23 to answer to five felony charges of stealing cash, selling drugs to undercover informants and taking illegal assault rifles from police raids. He was placed on administrative leave after his May 4 arrest and is free after posting bail.

Also in court Thursday was Lombardi's co-defendant, former state narcotics agent Norm Wielsch, who asked a judge to allow him to leave the county for medical treatment.

Lombardi is charged with committing those crimes while he was part of the Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team – CNET. Weilsch was CNET commander at the time.

Wielsch will appear in court with Lombardi in June alongside Christopher Butler, the Concord private investigator who police say helped the others sell drugs and weapons after stealing them from police evidence lockers. The February arrests of Butler and Wielsch led the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office and the California Department of Justice to start the investigation, which also resulted in the arrest of a Danville police officer from Alamo.

Butler and Wielsch will be re-arraigned because of the new charges brought against Lombardi.

Wielsch also needs to leave the county for legal reasons, said his lawyer Michael Cardoza, who spoke with reporters outside the courtroom Thursday morning. A federal judge reactivated a civil lawsuit that implicates Wielsch, Lombardi and other police officers in the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old Antioch resident during a 2008 drug raid.

A Pittsburg police officer killed Timothy Mitchell during the seizure after police said he reached for a weapon. It turned out that detectives were misled by someone who had stolen Mitchell's identity.

Butler and former Danville officer Stephen Tanabe also are implicated in what's being called a "dirty DUI" scheme in which Butler hired attractive women to convince men to drink at bars and follow the women home. Investigators say Butler then would call Tanabe, who would pull the men over and arrest them on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Tanabe, Wielsch and Butler, all free on bail, have pleaded not guilty.

The FBI questioned Lombardi earlier this week, according to news reports. Why federal investigators are involved remains unclear. It could be because drugs were sold out of state or because the FBI often investigates corruption in law enforcement, Cardoza said.

Investigators have said that Lombardi, Wielsch and Butler met a couple years ago in Pleasant Hill to talk about how to make money selling drugs taken in CNET raids. Lombardi allegedly sold 1,200 ecstasy tablets and a half-pound of marijuana to an undercover agent in Arizona.

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