Thomas Jason James Smith is suing the Millvale, Pa., police officers who are seemingly caught laughing as they use a stun gun on a handcuffed, shirtless and disturbed man.
BY LEE MORAN / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Pennsylvania cops are being sued over claims they repeatedly tasered a cuffed suspect while laughing and joking around.
Shocking cellphone footage emerged this week that seemingly shows a shirtless Thomas Jason James Smith being zapped as he sits on a police station floor in Millvale, a Pittsburgh suburb.
The clip, leaked to local TV outlets, begins with Smith rocking back and forth — hitting his head several times on an office cubicle.
He's then tasered multiple times by two officers.
Smith, who was 27 at the time of the incident Sept. 21, 2012, had been detained for public drunkenness.
He has now launched a lawsuit against Officer Nichole Murphy, Chief Derek Miller and the borough of Millvale.
Smith's acting attorney, David Shrager, told WPXI it is "unclear" who filmed the incident — and that it was emailed to him anonymously.
He said the officers went too far — and revealed that his client suffers from mental illness.
"All we are seeking here is the truth," Shrager told WPXI.com.
"We want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened that night and from what I've seen on that video it doesn't look like appropriate measures were taken," he added.
Smith, who says he doesn't remember much of the arrest, is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
"At no time was he a danger to anyone besides himself," the lawsuit says.
Allegheny County District Attorney's office is still reviewing the incident, reports Opposing
A Glynn County, Ga., police officer was accused of using excessive force to control a 70-year-old woman after he threw her to the ground face-first. A witness shot video of the incident earlier this month.
BY MICHAEL WALSH
A police officer appeared to body slam an elderly woman face-first onto pavement after pulling her over for drunk driving.
Kathleen Mary Allegrone, 70, did in fact scream and try to resist the officer as he escorted her from her car to his police cruiser. But what happened next — and is preserved on video — shocked everyone.
The Glynn County, Ga., police officer lifted the woman into the air and threw her onto the street. The woman's face made a loud whack as it smashed against the concrete, according to the witness who recorded the incident with his cell phone.
"The lady was being handcuffed and did not have her arms to break her fall," the witness said.
Allegrone’s mug shot, released by the Glynn County Sheriff's Office Dec. 13, shows the woman's nose badly bruised with large swaths of blood hardened beneath her nostrils.
"I was stunned really. I think everyone was," said the cameraman’s friend Brett, who wished to have his last name withheld, according to First Coast News. He witnessed the incident as well.
The officer in question, Kevin Jones, was taken off patrol while police investigated the incident. But he was returned to full duties Saturday, according to The Florida Times-Union.
After the police officer threw the woman on the ground, another cop walked over to the young man with his cell phone and asked him to stop shooting the scene.
"It's not against the law, though," the witness said.
"I know it's not against the law. I'm just asking you not to do it," the officer replied. "I cannot stop you but all I can say is that if it was your friend over there or if it was yourself would you want this happening?"
The young man tried to reply but was cut off.
"Yes or no, sir! Yes or no, sir!"
Allegrone faces charges for driving under the influence and willful obstruction of law enforcement officers.
She was released on bail.
Shawn Thomas recorded Police Officer Efrain Rojas inside the Utica Ave. station while he was giving a summons to another person. Rojas came over with his iPhone and started recording his encounter with Thomas. Rojas asked Thomas to stop recording and leave while Thomas hurled profanities. Thomas’ phone was taken away and the was video deleted but later recovered. He was charged with multiple offenses.
A transit cop allegedly assaulted, then arrested a 47-year-old man recording another man getting a summons at a Brooklyn subway station, according to a bombshell video released Wednesday.
Shawn Thomas of New Rochelle claimed Police Officer Efrain Rojas attacked him, arrested him and then tried to delete the video of Saturday’s interaction at Brooklyn’s Utica Ave. station.
Thomas told photographyisnotacrime.com that Rojas dragged him out of the station, forced him face down on a snowswept sidewalk and slammed his head into the pavement, splitting his lip.
“I was bleeding profusely,” he told the website. Attempts to reach Thomas for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday. “I was having really bad head pains while in jail, so they took me back to the hospital the following morning.”
Thomas was transported to the hospital twice as he awaited his arraignment Sunday, he said, according to the site.
He was released on his own recognizance after being charged with obstructing government administration, resisting arrest, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. He is due back in court April 1.
Court records indicate Rojas repeatedly asked Thomas to step back as the civilian recorded the 5:50 p.m. arrest, then asked him to leave the station, but Thomas refused.
Officer Rojas escorted Thomas out, but the 47-year-old followed him right back into the station, where he refused to be handcuffed, according to court records.
The video shows Officer Rojas walking up and using his personal iPhone to videotape the camera-wielding Thomas as he recorded a peaceful interaction between another police officer and a young man who had been handcuffed.
Why are you invading my personal space?” Thomas asks before asking Rojas’ for his name and shield number.
“You’re violating my personal space too,” Rojas said.
“Do you pick and choose what part of your patrol guide to read?” Thomas asked.
After a brief back and forth about personal space and patrol guides, Rojas began making threats
“Maybe I should arrest you,” the cop said.
“Try it and see what happens. Now back the f--- up and get out of my personal space,” Thomas screams — one of several times he shouts profanities at the officer.
“That’s three times you cursed at me,” Rojas said. “I haven’t cursed at you once.”
“That’s two,” Thomas corrected him. “Now back the f--- up. That’s three.”
“This is my station right here,” Rojas said, ordering Thomas to leave.
When Thomas didn’t, Rojas grabbed him. Thomas’ video cuts out at that point.
Another man recorded Rojas handcuffing Thomas’ as he kneeled on his back outside the station. The witness who recorded Thomas’ arrest tracked him down on Facebook, Thomas claimed.
Rojas allegedly pulled the batteries from Thomas’ camera after grabbing his arm and escorting him out of the station, the 47-year-old told the website.
When Thomas pulled out his Blackberry to continue recording, Rojas got violent, he claimed.
“He then knocked the phone out of my hand and slams me to the ground,” Thomas told the website. “Then he grabbed the back of my head and slammed it into the pavement.”
The video doesn’t show the arrest or the alleged violence.
Rojas allegedly deleted the video, but Thomas was able to recover the deleted footage through a free program called Recuva.
The NYPD's Transit Bureau Investigations Unit and the Civilian Complaint Review Board are reviewing the video, according to NYPD top spokesman Stephen Davis.
Christopher Roupe, 17, was shot by a Euharlee police officer on Friday when he answered the door. Police say he was pointing a handgun, not the video game device. Roupe was an aspiring Marine, his family said.
BY IRVING DEJOHN /
A Georgia teen who dreamed of being a Marine was killed by police at his front door while wielding only a Wii remote, the family lawyer claims.
Christopher Roupe, 17, of Euharlee was felled by a single police bullet when an unidentified officer arrived at the family mobile home to execute a probation violation warrant against his father, authorities said.
Meanwhile, police assert that the teen pointed a gun directly at the female officer, prompting her to blast the boy in the chest.
The circumstances of the tragic shooting last Friday night are under reviewed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, according to reports.
“It just doesn't add up,” family attorney Cole Law told WSBTV. “He heard a knock at the door. He asked who it was, there was no response so he opened the door and upon opening the door he was immediately shot in the chest.”
Roupe, 17, was a member of the ROTC at Woodland High School and was planning to sign up for the Marines, his friends said.
“He was a good kid,” his pal William Corson told WSBT.
Euharlee police said two officers arrived at roughly 7:35 p.m. and Roupe answered the door with a gun drawn — contradicting the lawyer and witness claims that he was unarmed, expect for the video game device.
The officer, who has been placed on administrative leave, broke down after she realized that she had shot the teen at point-blank range, witnesses said.
“She put her head in her hands and she was sobbing,” Ken Yates told WSBT. "Supposedly, he opened the door with a BB gun and in my opinion I think he was playing a game with his neighborhood buddies."
Roupe was transported to a hospital in Cartersville where he was pronounced dead. The result of the investigation will be forwarded to the district attorney’s office, police said.
Police directed all questions regarding the shooting to the GBI. A spokeswoman for the unit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for the family directed all inquiries to their attorney, who could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.
By Susannah Bryan
Prosecutors say a Broward Sheriff's deputy lost his cool one day in 2011, ranting at a driver, calling her and her passenger "stupid Latins" and eventually making off with the woman's cellphone after he realized he was being recorded.
That man was Paul Pletcher, witness Selvin Guerra testified in court Tuesday as the ex-deputy's road rage trial got underway. Guerra, a passenger that day in the truck driven by Neyda Osorio, was the state's first witness in a trial expected to last all week.
Pletcher, fired by the Sheriff's Office in 2012, faces four criminal counts: burglary, battery, criminal mischief and petty theft.
Both sides agree that Pletcher pulled over Osorio on May 23, 2011. Off-duty at the time, Pletcher was armed and driving his patrol car.
The question for jurors is whether Pletcher, 39, committed the crimes of which he is accused, defense attorney Al Milian said in his opening statement.
Assistant State Attorney Deborah Zimet told jurors that Pletcher demanded Osorio turn over her cellphone once he realized he was being recorded.
Here's what happened, Zimet told jurors: Osorio put the phone in her purse, but Pletcher pinned her back with one arm and with the other reached inside her truck to grab her purse. Once Pletcher had the phone, he drove off and tossed the phone, broken into three pieces, out the window.
Plantation police were able to find the phone. An expert with the Broward Sheriff's Office was able to retrieve the recording from a microchip.
Zimet played the 22-second recording for jurors twice Tuesday.
In the video, Pletcher orders Osorio several times to turn over her Blackberry. At one point he says, "Give me the phone now or else you're going to jail."
Milian attempted to cast doubt on the state's case, telling jurors that police didn't find Pletcher's DNA or fingerprints on the phone because Pletcher didn't take the phone.
Milian painted a portrait of Osorio as a woman who has had two run-ins with the law since her encounter with Pletcher.
Osorio has been arrested twice in the past couple of years, Milian told jurors. One case was dropped and the other is pending. The nature of the charges was not disclosed to the jury.
"Paul Pletcher was acting that day in the authority given to him by the law," Milian said, advising jurors that Pletcher had a right to pull over Osorio for driving erratically. "Not until you get the whole story will you be able to understand what happened."
With the jury out of the courtroom, Zimet told Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan that Milian was trying to make Osorio's arrests the focus of the case.
"Why? Because he doesn't have a defense otherwise," she said.
The trial is expected to resume Wednesday at 10:45 a.m.
By Ariel Barkhurst
A Davie woman spent one night in jail after she used a cellphone to record a Broward Sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop.
The minute Brandy Berning, 33, told Lt. William O'Brien she was recording the conversation they had when he pulled her over for driving in the HOV lane at the wrong time, O'Brien responds on Berning's audio with:
"I have to tell you, you just committed a felony."
"All I knew was I was trying to keep my phone," Berning said. "I knew I couldn't give him my phone, because I didn't know why he was acting the way he was if he didn't plan on doing something wrong."
Berning spent the night in jail in March but was never charged. Berning now has two attorneys and says she gave BSO notice that she plans to sue the agency.
A BSO spokeswoman said the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.
Whether Berning had a right to record O'Brien is not clear under state law, said Barry Butin, co-legal panel chairman of the Broward American Civil Liberties Union. But because it is clear that third parties can record video of police performing their duties, Berning "has a good chance of the law being on her side," Butin said.
"Clearly, it was an overreaction … And look at the totality of the circumstances," Butin said. "She shouldn't have had to spend the night in jail, that's for sure."
The case could be precedent-setting, Butin said.
Berning had a right to record O'Brien because the law has shown that police performing their duties have no "reasonable expectation of privacy," said Mike Glasser, one of Berning's attorneys.
Florida is a two-consent state when it comes to recordings, meaning both parties are required to know about the recording. Berning recorded about 15 seconds of her conversation with O'Brien before informing him she was doing it.
Another BSO deputy in 2011 allegedly attacked a woman and stole her phone after he realized she was recording their traffic stop. Paul Pletcher, accused of burglary, battery, criminal mischief and petty theft, has a hearing on Friday that might set a date for his trial.
Pletcher allegedly took the phone and drove away while throwing it in pieces out the window. BSO recovered the phone and found a 22-second recording of an argument and what sounds like a struggle.
Berning said she decided to find a lawyer and sue because another sheriff's deputy, who she didn't want to identify, spoke to her while she was in jail and suggested she sue because what O'Brien did was wrong.
"Finding they're liable for what they did, using what we think was excessive force just because she was recording him on her phone, that would drive home the point that police officers can't do this," said Eric Rudenberg, Berning's other attorney.
"The cops should be there to protect us and to serve justice when it's needed," Berning said, "but not step over those boundaries and take advantage."
By C. RYAN BARBER
FALMOUTH – A Sandwich police officer was arraigned this morning on a drunk driving charge stemming from an off-duty crash in Mashpee on Nov. 30.
Daniel Perkins, 38, of Sandwich, was released on his own recognizance shortly before 10 a.m., following a brief appearance in Falmouth District Court.
The arraignment came nearly three months after police said Perkins crashed a truck at 759 Route 130 near the Sandwich town line.
Perkins, who was alone in the car, was injured in the rollover crash and was freed from the vehicle with a hydraulic tool known as the Jaws of Life, police said. He was taken to Cape Cod Hospital and later released.
Both Perkins and his attorney, Jens Bahrawy, declined to comment.
"I don't comment on pending cases," Bahrawy said after a private meeting with Perkins.
Mashpee police filed for a criminal complaint in December, two weeks after the crash.
A five-year veteran of the Sandwich Police Department, Perkins had previously worked for the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office before joining the town's force.
By Rick Wright
David Vega sat out an entire football season while under suspension because of an arrest stemming from an Albuquerque Police Department search, later declared illegal, of his home.
Vega will never get that season back — though he did wind up saving a year’s eligibility the hard way.
Neither, however, will the city of Albuquerque get back the $45,000 it has paid to settle a lawsuit filed against APD by the UNM quarterback.
“It’s a fair result for David,” Colin Hunter, one of Vega’s attorneys, said of the settlement. “He’s pleased with it, and we’re happy it worked out.”
Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy said the decision to settle was based on financial concerns.
“It was determined,” Levy wrote in an email to the Journal, “it was in the City’s best economic interest to resolve the case early as the value of the case would be driven largely by attorney’s fees incurred by plaintiff’s counsel.”
Efforts by the Journal to reach Vega for comment were unsuccessful.
Vega sued APD, alleging false arrest and false imprisonment. He was arrested Aug. 26, 2012, after APD Officers Yoki Maurx and Michael Harrison, responding to a complaint about stolen property, entered a house Vega shared with three roommates without permission.
According to Vega’s lawsuit, filed April 9, 2013, in U.S. District Court, Maurx coerced Vega’s three roommates into signing consent forms for a search of the premises after the fact. When Vega refused to do so, he was arrested on charges of possession of alcohol by a minor (now 22, he was 20 at the time) and attempting to conceal his identity.
The stolen property that brought Maurx and Harrison to Vega’s neighborhood was not found and was not a factor in the arrest.
According to the lawsuit, Maurx either turned off his lapel video camera while making the arrest or destroyed that part of the video.
Lobos football coach Bob Davie suspended Vega two days later, in large part because the former Roswell Goddard and New Mexico Military Institute star had not told him of the arrest.
Also, Vega had been suspended briefly for undisclosed reasons during the team’s training camp in Ruidoso earlier in August.
At the time, after talking with Vega about the circumstances of his arrest, Davie said he might not have suspended the player the second time if not for those two factors.
Davie said he would allow Vega a chance to prove his innocence, “but he won’t be on this football team until he does.”
Vega missed the entire 2012 season, which effectively became a redshirt season, while under suspension.
Last February, charges against Vega were dropped because the APD search had been deemed illegal by the District Attorney’s Office. According to the lawsuit, Maurx used the discovery of vomit outside the house — citing the possibility of alcohol poisoning — as a pretext to enter.
In the lawsuit, it was noted that Maurx had pleaded guilty in 2011 to knowingly having provided false testimony in a 2009 DWI case. Levy said Maurx has since been fired, though not as a result of the Vega arrest and lawsuit.
Shortly after the charges were dropped, Vega was reinstated by Davie. Last season, playing behind quarterbacks Cole Gautsche and Clayton Mitchem, he completed 6-of-13 passes for 63 yards and one touchdown. He carried the ball 20 times for 117 yards, a 5.85 average.
At Goddard, Vega led the Rockets to two Class 4A state titles and was an All-State selection. In two seasons at NMMI, he threw for 5,648 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Vega, listed as 6-foot-1 and 193 pounds, will be a senior this fall.
DAVIE, Fla. – “Get off of me! You are breaking the law!” shouts a South Florida woman as a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy enters her car and drags her out, all because she was recording her traffic stop on Interstate 95.
Now, the police agency is facing serious legal action for alleged battery, false arrest and false imprisonment.
The saga of single mother Brandy Berning began last March when she was driving alone in the HOV carpool lane, which is designed for vehicles carrying more than one passenger during rush hour.
She was pulled over by Broward Sheriff’s Lt. William O’Brien, who told Berning about her traffic infraction. That’s when she then informed him she was recording audio of their conversation on her cell phone.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you I was recording our conversation,” Berning said on the recording.
“I’m sorry?” asked the deputy.
“I have to tell you I forgot to tell you I was recording our conversation,” she repeated.
“OK, well I have to tell you, you just committed a felony,” responded O’Brien. “Give me your phone.”
When Berning steadfastly refused to hand the officer her phone, the rhetoric escalated.
“I’m allowed to record our conversation!” exclaimed Berning. “I know my rights.”
“I’m gonna tell you one more time, you are committing a felony, hand me your phone,” said the officer.
“Get out of my car,” responded Berning, as the deputy entered the driver’s side of her vehicle.
“I know the law better than you, believe me,” pressed the lieutenant.
“No. I will go to court. I’m not giving you my phone,” Berning maintained.
“You’re gonna end up in jail if you don’t hand me that phone – tonight!” O’Brien warned. “I am giving you a lawful order to hand me that phone.”
Berning: “I told you I was recording the conversation.”
Lt. O’Brien: “You did not! Hand me the phone.”
Berning: “I just told you.”
Lt. O’Brien: “I’m getting the phone.”
Berning: “You’re not getting my phone.”
Lt. O’Brien: “Yes, I am.”
Berning: “No you’re not.”
Lt. O’Brien: “Yes I am.”
That’s when a scuffle began as the officer grabbed Berning in an effort to remove her from the vehicle.
“Get off of me! You are breaking the law right now!” Berning repeated numerous times. “Get out of my car! I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“You are under arrest,” the officer informed her.
As she was being taken into custody, she informed O’Brien, “You’ve injured me and everything. You are in trouble.”
“OK, we’ll see,” the deputy responded.
Berning was initially charged with traffic violations and resisting arrest, but interestingly, she was not charged with illegally recording the pair’s conversation.
She spent one night in jail, but all charges were eventually dropped.
In the aftermath of the arrest, Berning told her story to WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in South Florida.
“At least one of [the backup officers] had their gun out. They dragged me out by my arm,” she explained. “I’m just being dragged on the ground and then they throw me onto the cop car.”
She was most upset about the officer “touching me, trying to take my personal belongings from me, trying to put me in jail for something so small.”
She told the station she suffered numerous injuries as a result of the scuffle.
“I had a bruise on my cheek, and my leg got cut. I have a scar on my leg, three large wound scrapes down my leg, and there was a rock lodged in my leg. And he had sprained my wrist.”
Berning’s lawyers have now informed the sheriff’s office of their intent to file suit.
“There was a battery that occurred. False arrest. False imprisonment,” said attorney Eric Rudenberg.’
“[The officer] shouldn’t have had any concern about what she was doing with her cell phone as long as it wasn’t impeding his ability to write the citation, give her the citation and send her on her way,” added attorney Mike Glasser.
He told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Berning had a right to record O’Brien because the law has shown that police performing their duties have no “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Florida is a two-consent state when it comes to recordings, meaning both parties are required to know they’re being recorded.
Berning recorded about 15 seconds of her discussion with the officer before informing him of her action.
This incident comes on the heels of a similar confrontation with a Broward deputy in 2011.
Officer Paul Pletcher faces criminal charges for allegedly attacking a woman and stealing her phone from her when he realized she was recording their traffic stop.
Pletcher is accused of burglary, battery, criminal mischief and petty theft, and a hearing is set for this Friday that could set a date for his trial.
The Sun-Sentinel reports: “Pletcher allegedly took the phone, and drove away while throwing it in pieces out the window. BSO recovered the phone and found a 22-second recoding of an argument and what sounds like a struggle.”
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows the legal recording of police activity, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the officers’ duties.
Berning told the Sun-Sentinel she decided to take legal action when “another sheriff’s deputy, who she didn’t want to identify, spoke to her while she was in jail and suggested she sue because what O’Brien did was wrong.”
“Finding they’re liable for what they did, using what we think was excessive force just because she was recording him on her phone, that would drive home the point that police officers can’t do this,” said her attorney Rudenberg.
“The cops should be there to protect us and to serve justice when it’s needed,” she said, “but not step over those boundaries and take advantage.”
The Broward Sheriffs Office has made no comment regarding the Berning case, but it did send WPLG an internal bulletin from July informing deputies that citizens can legally record them
by ANDY PIERROTTI
AUSTIN -- A former Austin police officer is named in a federal lawsuit for failing to stop state troopers from making a false arrest. The KVUE Defenders uncovered why this isn’t the first time the officer has been accused of mishandling a case.
Rey Muniz has a difficult time trusting law enforcement. In a recently filed federal lawsuit, the Austin man claims May 2012 dashboard camera video shows a state trooper assaulting and falsely arresting him in a parking for not providing his ID.
“When an officer asks for your ID, you give it to him,” says DPS Trooper Chancy Davis in the video.
“Am I under arrest?" Muniz later asks in the video.
"You’re being detained,” says Davis.
You can't see it in the video, but you can hear Muniz asking Davis to stop touching him.
Claiming that he felt he threatened, Muniz calls 911 and reports the incident.
A few minutes later, Austin Police Officer Timothy Little responds. When Muniz gets off the phone, he walks towards him, but Little signals him to stop and speaks with DPS troopers first.
"He should have came to me and talk to me. I’m the one who called 911," said Muniz.
"He arguably conspired with the other officers that were on site to get that story straight," said Jeff Kelly, Muniz’s attorney. "If he had gone directly to speak with Mr. Muniz, he would realize that he was being assaulted by the officers."
Troopers eventually arrested Muniz for failing to provide his ID and resisting arrest. Up to that point, Muniz had a clean record. The district attorney's office later dropped all charges.
So, what about Muniz’s claims DPS troopers assaulted him? While Little responded, the KVUE Defenders found he did not file a report on Muniz’s claims as a department policy clearly states should happen when reporting on citizen complaints.
Austin police say Little resigned more than a year after the Muniz's 911 call. APD says it's against the law to comment on the circumstances of his resignation.
This isn’t the first time Little has been accused of mishandling a 911 call. In March 2004, he responded to a 911 call from an Austin apartment.
According to an internal affairs investigation, when the door opened he recognized the man as “a police academy classmate.” The fellow officer told him he got into a fight with his girlfriend.
Instead of reporting it, Little told dispatch, “All quiet inside. No answer.”
The department suspended him for covering up for another officer’s conduct.
While Little is no longer with APD, the department remains liable for his action.
The KVUE Defenders wanted to know whether Austin Police Chief Art Acevado believes Little acted appropriately and if this is a broader problem that needs to be addressed in the department.
APD says the chief cannot discuss pending litigation or former employees.
In addition to the federal lawsuit, Muniz filed a complaint with the Travis County District Attorney's Office. It confirms it's investigating Muniz's complaint.
By Malaika Fraley
SAN FRANCISCO -- A former Danville officer and Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in federal prison for his role in a private investigator's scheme to set up men in ugly child custody battles for what became known as "dirty DUI" arrests.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his 2011 arrest, 50-year-old Stephen Tanabe told a judge he was unaware of the extent of now-incarcerated private investigator Christopher Butler's scheme and that he felt justified arresting drunken drivers. Tanabe admitted accepting a Glock handgun that prosecutors say was payment for arrests, but he claims it was not a "quid pro quo" situation. He again denied the government's claim that he was also paid in cocaine.
"I would not have thrown my career away to save $450 (on a Glock) if I thought what I was doing was wrong," said Tanabe, an Alamo father of two who started his law enforcement career in Honolulu in 1987 and worked at the Antioch Police Department before joining the Sheriff's Office.
"All I ever wanted to do was be a cop," Tanabe said, his voice breaking. "I destroyed that -- that's all one of the hardest things to swallow."
Tanabe said he regrets not testifying at his trial in September, when he was convicted of six felonies for conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion. He was acquitted of one wire fraud count related to text messages that prosecutors said pertained to the cocaine exchange.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for between 21 and 27 months in prison; Judge Charles Breyer did not explain why he handed Tanabe a shorter term.
Tanabe was arrested for the "dirty DUI" busts, and former San Ramon Officer Louis Lombardi was arrested for drug sales and thefts, based on Butler's statements to investigators after he and then-Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team Cmdr. Norman Wielsch were caught on video selling stolen drug evidence in February 2011.
Wielsch and Butler were sentenced to 14 and eight years, respectively, for the drug sales, robbing prostitutes, making false arrests and other crimes. Lombardi received three years. Butler's sentence is expected to be reduced, based on his testimony against Tanabe and others.
Earlier this month, former San Ramon divorce attorney Mary Nolan was sentenced to two years in prison for illegal wiretapping, working with Butler to plant listening devices in cars and tax evasion. Though she represented some of the ex-wives of the "dirty DUI" targets and was involved in the setups, Nolan was not charged in the "dirty DUIs" because the statute of limitations had lapsed, prosecutor Hartley West said in court Wednesday.
Butler said he attempted the "dirty DUI" scheme about a dozen times. His employees would entice the men to get drunk and then Butler would tip off police once they got into their cars. Those employees were usually attractive women pretending to be interested in the targets, but they sometimes were men pretending to be a reality TV producer or a journalist. Butler claimed Tanabe was the only officer he paid in connection with the setups, which were meant to make the targets look bad in their custody battles.
Tanabe was not remanded into custody Wednesday but was ordered to surrender himself to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by April 15. His sentencing allows for civil lawsuits filed by the DUI targets in federal court to resume.
By Gabrielle Burkhart
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A UNM Lobo quarterback is getting a nice payout for his troubles with the Albuquerque Police Department. Football player David Vega sued APD in a false arrest case, saying the whole ordeal was humiliating, and cost him a lot of playing time.
The case involved two officers going into a home without a warrant. Not only did the case cost the city money, it may have also cost a cop his job.
A year-and-a-half after Vega was arrested for underage drinking and concealing his identity because he wouldn’t give his name, Vega’s lawsuit against APD and the city has led to a hefty payout. KRQE News 13 has learned it’s $45,000.
“He’s a young kid who just wants to play football,” said Diego Esquibel, Vega’s Attorney.
Vega’s attorney said the case against his client should have never even happened.
Lapel cam from former APD officer, Yoki Maurx, shows police going into Vega’s home without a warrant after police said a stolen iPhone’s GPS led them there.
“I think that guy may have alcohol poisoning, I’m serious,” Maurx is heard saying on a lapel recording. Vega’s attorney claims the officers laughed about that after seeing vomit outside the house, and used it as an emergency excuse to go inside.
“But if you watch the lapel camera, there’s no, there’s nothing that’s done to show that they actually care about the health,” said Esquibel.
The lawsuit claims after the officers’ illegal entry, officer Maurx pressured everyone in the house but Vega, who refused, to sign “after-the-fact” consent forms allowing them to search the home.
Maurx is heard on a lapel recording boasting about it.
“Permission to search, that’s the way we do it in the southeast,” the officer’s voice is heard saying on lapel recording.
Vega, who was a star quarterback at Goddard High and NMMI Junior College in Roswell, was kicked off the UNM football team for the 2012 season after his arrest.
Vega’s charges were thrown out, and the coach reinstated him last year. Vega’s attorneys said Maurx was fired from APD, although the city would only confirm he no longer works there, and wouldn’t say why.
Maurx was convicted of contempt of court a few years ago for lying under oath in a DWI case.
Vega’s arrest didn’t just affect him; it had a big impact on the Lobo team in 2012. Both quarterbacks ahead of him were hurt during that season and Vega was badly needed, but he had been kicked off the team.
He’ll be a senior this fall, competing with several quarterbacks for playing time.
Vega’s attorney said he recently learned there was more lapel video from the night of Vega’s false arrest that was destroyed before he was able to view it, or use it in his client’s criminal case.