SAN FRANCISCO -- An incarcerated Concord private investigator at the center of a 2011 police-corruption scandal testified Monday that former Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputy Stephen Tanabe was on patrol for the town of Danville the night he paid him in cocaine to help set up men for drunken-driving arrests.
On the witness stand wearing red prison scrubs, Christopher Butler said he was surprised when Tanabe asked for 3.5 grams of cocaine, colloquially called an 8-Ball, instead of the $200 he originally wanted in exchange for facilitating the arrest of Oakland software executive David Lane Bauldry in November 2010.
"He was working as a deputy sheriff, and I thought he was no longer ingesting cocaine," Butler said before describing passing the drugs off to Tanabe as he sat in his Danville police patrol car parked in the Lunardi's market lot.
Using his police laptop, Tanabe pulled up the preliminary result of Bauldry's breath test a few days earlier: a 0.13 blood-alcohol level, over the legal limit, Butler said.
Tanabe, 50, of Alamo, is on trial in federal court on seven extortion and conspiracy charges for allegedly taking the cocaine and a Glock pistol from Butler as a bribe for participating in three "dirty DUI" arrests in late 2010 and early 2011, including Bauldry's. It was a scam that Butler orchestrated, or at least attempted, about a dozen times starting in 2007, he said, for women who wanted the father of their children arrested for leverage in divorce and child custody proceedings.
"If there were no children, then I wouldn't do the DUI sting," Butler said. "I don't know (why), that was just my requirement."
Tanabe's defense is that he never took any payment for participating in the arrests, and the prosecution can't prove so based on the word of Butler, whose testimony could result in time shaved off the eight-year sentence he's serving for a host of felonies uncovered after he and Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) Commander Norman Wielsch were caught selling drugs stolen from evidence lockers in February 2011.
Butler listed his past crimes on the stand, including planting drugs on people, false arrests, robbing prostitutes, running a brothel, theft, insurance fraud and planting listening devices in people's cars.
With the DUI stings, he either lost money or broke even, having to pay out attractive female decoys and others who would use ruses appealing to ego or sex drive to get his targets drunk enough to fail a field sobriety test, Butler said.
Still, he said, the DUI stings were good advertising for his Butler & Associates company website and were among the services he was going to tout on the reality show he was developing for the Lifetime network, "PI Moms."
It was through the ultimately failed reality show, Butler said, that he acquired 10 Glock pistols from the manufacturer for promotional consideration. The $600 firearm is what Tanabe wanted in exchange for arresting Livermore winemaker Mitchell Katz and Verizon software executive Hasan Aksu during days-apart stings against those men in January 2011, Butler said.
As the Glock was worth more than what Tanabe was owed for pulling over targets or tipping off other officers to the drunken driver, Butler said he planned to bring him into a fourth sting to work off the difference.
Butler said he met Tanabe when they both served on the Antioch police force in 1995, and after they both left, Tanabe would do private security jobs for Butler's investigative firm while trying his hand at real estate, before joining the Sheriff's Office in 2006.
In 2001, Butler said he used two of Tanabe's personal cocaine dealers to hook up drugs for a client. Both times, he passed on the dealers' information to Wielsch, who then busted them for drug sales. Wielsch, the former CNET commander, is serving a 14-year prison sentence.
Tanabe owed a third drug dealer too much money to make his own buy in 2003, so he had Butler buy a large amount for him, Butler said. Tanabe had him dole out the sum of the buy into more than 20 packages that Butler would give him when he wanted, in an attempt to wean himself off cocaine, Butler said.
The trial continues Tuesday with cross-examination testimony from Butler. The prosecution said it expects to rest its case in the afternoon.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.