OAKLAND — At least three more Oakland police officers were placed on paid administrative leave this week pending an internal affairs investigation into "misstatements" they made on sworn affidavits used to secure search warrants.
Among the three officers, officials said, was Karla Rush, who is accused of writing faulty affidavits and who was named in two federal civil rights lawsuits filed against the city and the department last month.
The officers were placed on leave as the department's internal affairs investigation enters its third month and cases related to the search warrants continue to be thrown from court. Police would not release the names of the other two officers.
The imbroglio has also begun to affect unrelated cases, as officers are refusing to testify in court for fear of being questioned about search warrants.
Issues revolving around search warrants first surfaced in September when the police department admitted almost two dozen officers had made "misstatements" in sworn affidavits about testing substances purchased on the street during undercover operations or through informants.
While the substances bought on the street had not been tested, officers swore under oath to judges issuing search warrants that tests had been conducted, and those tests proved the substances were drugs.
Based on that information, Alameda County Superior Court judges issued search warrants for suspects' homes, mostly reputed small-time drug dealers in East Oakland. But, with the admission those warrants were based on erroneous facts, much of the evidence collected during the searches is not allowed to be presented in court.
Since the department's public admission, cases against 10 defendants previously charged with felonies have been dropped or thrown from court. In addition, two defendants had probation violations cleared from their criminal records.
Meanwhile, at least eight officers have been placed on paid administrative leave.
Top department officials have continued to defend their officers, saying the issue had more to do with a lack of training and miscommunication than outright fabrications.
But others, including the public defender's office, have said it appeared officers purposely lied on affidavits to win search warrants.
In fact, the public defender's office demanded Thursday that officers bring their confidential informants to court for a closed-door hearing with a judge.
In motions filed in the case of Henry Williams, who was arrested and charged in March with possession of a controlled substance, public defender Andrew Steckler asked for the police to prove an informant exists.
Williams was the victim of a questionable search March 28 after Officer Francisco Martinez swore in an affidavit an informant purchased methamphetamine from Williams' home four days before the search. Martinez stated in the sworn affidavit the substance the informant purchased was tested, and the test concluded it was methamphetamine.
Based on his sworn statement, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carol Brosnahan issued a search warrant.
In motions filed Thursday, Steckler questioned if an informant even existed.
"We submit that the only way to determine whether Officer Martinez's misstatement was a simple 'error' or part of (a) wholesale fabrication is for the court to conduct the "... investigation," Steckler wrote in the motion. "If Officer Martinez made an 'error' or committed perjury regarding drug testing, then he may have made similar errors or committed perjury regarding other elements of probable cause."
The motion also demands the judge question Martinez about the search warrant and internal affairs investigators about what has been learned about "misstatements" made in sworn affidavits.
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Dec. 4.
Questioning police officers about their roles in giving "misstatements" has also begun to affect other, unrelated, criminal cases.
Officers who wrote faulty affidavits are refusing to testify in other cases in which they made arrests for fear that it would allow defense attorneys to question them about the warrants.
As a result, cases in which the officers are involved are being delayed. Eventually, some of those cases could also be thrown from court.
"In each instance that it has come up, the district attorney has requested a continuance because they were told by attorneys for the officers that the officers would not testify," said Ray Plumhoff, a public defender. "It appears they want the administrative proceedings to conclude before they testify."
About 10 such cases exist, Plumhoff said.
"It's delaying cases, but it hasn't caused a problem yet," one prosecutor said.
Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this report.