Although two men were set up for drunk driving arrests as part of a scam to help the victims’ ex-wives in custody disputes, a judge dismissed civil claims that their constitutional rights were violated.
Hasan Aksu and Mitchell Katz sued Contra Costa County after they were arrested in what became known as the “Dirty DUI” case. A former cop-turned-private investigator made a deal with Danville police officer Stephen Tanabe to point out drunken drivers that he was investigating in connection with divorce cases.
Tanabe would arrest the drivers for drunken driving and in exchange Butler promised to buy him a Glock handgun.
After the Dirty DUI scheme was exposed Aksu and Katz sued. Both men registered well over the legal limit to drive when they were stopped by Tanabe, according to the court.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said Tanabe had probable cause for the traffic stops and that could not be nullified by the fact that the stops were “maliciously inspired.”
“Unless the Ninth Circuit holds that entrapment negates probable cause, this court’s hands are tied,” he said.
In Aksu’s case, in 2011 Butler got a colleague to pose as a reporter interested in a story about successful immigrant businessmen and met Aksu at a bar then plied him with alcohol. When Aksu left the bar Butler alerted Tanabe, who stopped Aksu and arrested him.
In Katz’ case, Butler’s colleague convinced Katz that he worked for Lifetime TV and wanted to showcase Katz’s winery. They met at a bar and again Katz was plied with liquor and Tanabe was alerted when Katz left the bar.
In separate proceedings, Tanabe was criminally charged with extortion and corruption for his role in the scam and sentenced to 15 months in prison in February 2014.
Butler was the government’s key witness against Tanabe and agreed to testify in exchange for leniency. Butler was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Case: Aksu v. Contra Costa County, No. 12-4268
Katz v. Contra Costa, C11-5771