Judge Reduces Sentence of Concord Private Investigator Who Cooperated with Prosecutors

April 29, 2014 · 16 comments

Christopher Butler – a former private investigator at the center of an East Bay corruption scandal who later cooperated with prosecutors – had a year knocked off his prison sentence by a federal judge today.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco, in a one-sentence order, reduced Butler’s sentence for his conviction on seven federal charges from eight years in prison to seven.

Breyer said the decrease was made at the request of prosecutors but did not elaborate. But Butler’s defense attorney, William Gagen, said the reduction was “exactly what” prosecutors had requested in exchange for Butler’s ongoing cooperation.

Butler, 52, of Concord, was one of two masterminds, along with former state narcotics squad commander Norman Wielsch, of a wide-ranging police corruption scheme in Contra Costa County. The charges in the case included the theft and sale of seized drug evidence, drunken-driving stings known as “dirty DUIs,” illegal wiretapping of the cars of husbands in divorce cases, robbery and extortion.

Butler pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland in 2012 to seven felonies and was initially sentenced by U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong later in 2012 to eight years in prison. His case was transferred to Breyer’s court last year.

Butler’s convictions included conspiring to sell methamphetamine and marijuana that Wielsch stole from evidence lockers; violating the civil rights of a teenager and prostitutes in fake arrests; extorting protection money from workers in a massage parlor that he and Wielsch established; and illegal wiretapping of his clients’ husbands’ cars. While testifying for the prosecution in the case of former Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Deputy Stephen Tanabe in 2013, Butler acknowledged that his sentence had already been reduced from a mandatory 10 years to the eight-year term in exchange for his cooperation, and said it could be reduced further.

Gagen said today, “I’m relieved that the sentence reduction committee of the U.S. Attorney’s Office felt he earned the right to some more time reduced. “I think it was a very fair result,” the defense attorney said. He said Butler is incarcerated at a federal prison in Colorado. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag had no immediate comment on Breyer’s order.

Prosecutors’ requests for the two reductions appeared to have been filed under seal in 2012 and again last September, following Tanabe’s conviction on charges related to aiding Butler in setting up the drunken driving stings. Butler was one of five people prosecuted in federal court in connection with the scandal. Wielsch, the former commander of the now-disbanded Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team, pleaded guilty in 2012 to five charges, including conspiracy to distribute marijuana and methamphetamine, theft from a government program, two counts of conspiracy against civil rights and a count of robbing cell phones and cash from a madam accompanying a prostitute. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Former San Ramon police officer and CNET member Louis Lombardi received a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to stealing cash and property during searches and possessing and selling drugs and stolen guns.

Former San Ramon divorce attorney Mary Nolan pleaded guilty to four counts of evading income taxes and one count of hiring Butler to hide a wiretapping device in a client’s husband’s car in 2007. She was sentenced to two years in prison. Tanabe, the only defendant to go to trial, was convicted on Sept. 3 of conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion for his role in three drunken-driving stings in Danville in 2010 and 2011. He was sentenced by Breyer to one year and three months in prison and is appealing his conviction.

Butler and Tanabe are also facing civil lawsuits filed in federal court by three men who were arrested in drunken-driving stings.

1 Nick April 29, 2014 at 10:03 AM

This whole case makes CoCo county look so bad. These characters should all be in jail for much much longer.

2 Winston April 29, 2014 at 10:34 AM

For a truly entertaining hour of radio about this incident, listen to this:
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/447/the-incredible-case-of-the-pi-moms

3 iluvfriedchicken April 29, 2014 at 10:35 AM

I can’t wait till they make a movie out of this story. Truth is stranger than fiction!

4 Mr. Pink April 29, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Agree with #3. It would make a great movie.

5 Shelly April 29, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Wells guess that just figures.

6 gratt April 29, 2014 at 11:22 AM

snitch/rat

7 What security April 29, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Everybody know this story already!!! No need to make a movie it’s been done a zillion times. The African American, Latinos know this story for a long time.
I guess it’s coming to community near you.

Bottom line. They committed a crime they should do the time.
That cop became a drug dealer, pimp, I’m just waiting for the underage girls to come forward.

They are slime balls perion

8 Slezeelawyerclientcomplicity April 29, 2014 at 11:44 AM

This case is the most disturbing in the saga of disturbing cases. This sleazy lawyer had better be disbarred, else the credibility of all lawyers will slink to a new low. And future civil suit(s) by the injured parties to reduce her to living out her days living in the shell of a non-running van….down by the river…sounds justified too. Lastly, there should be repercussions to the sleazy lawyer clients…or at least a reconsideration of any child custody agreements that were made under duress. I don’t believe the “I didn’t know (what she was doing)” defense would be credible.

9 Julio April 29, 2014 at 11:45 AM

I don’t think any of them got enough time. They were police officers. Bad police officers of any kind should not be rewarded for any reason. Will we be on the hook for their pension also? Be an interesting answer if someone answered it honestly. They should not be allowed their pensions either under any circumstance. harsh? NO

10 What security April 29, 2014 at 11:45 AM

They don’t make coco county look bad. Because most of the cops do a great job out here. Places like Los Angeles and Oakland they are corrupt

11 Googlar April 29, 2014 at 12:09 PM

So instead of being known as the scumbag who set up citizens and monetized their misery he’s now “Concord Private Investigator Who Cooperated with Prosecutors”. What a good guy.

12 the other jj April 29, 2014 at 12:59 PM

snitch and tell everyone knows

13 ANON April 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Status History — Mary Nolan

Effective Date Status Change
Present Not Eligible To Practice Law
10/8/2013 Not Eligible To Practice Law

14 anon April 29, 2014 at 2:20 PM

With time off for good behavior and Californias crowded prisons, he will get out soon.

15 Cowellian April 29, 2014 at 2:25 PM

He’s in Englewood, a low-security federal prison in Littleton, CO.

16 Ancient Mariner April 29, 2014 at 7:11 PM

Wonder why federal.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: