PI and Deputy sheriff accused of setting up DWI arrests

Posted on Sep 03, 2013

A California private investigator testified last week that he and a deputy sheriff in the town of Danville ran a scheme that targeted the husbands of female divorce clients by trying to get the husbands arrested for drunk-driving.

Private investigator Christopher Butler said his “dirty DUI” scheme worked like this: He would hire women to go to bars and flirt with the husbands of female clients who sought his services as part of divorce or child custody proceedings. That’s according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Butler’s hires would then try to coax the men into driving to another location, so Butler could alert police in hopes of getting the men arrested. The goal was to give his female clients dirt they could use in their divorce proceedings or custody disputes.
Butler, who used to be a police officer, gave that testimony at the trial of former deputy sheriff Stephen Tanabe, who Butler said helped in the scheme. Tanabe asked to be paid for his help – in the form of cocaine and a pistol, Butler testified.

Tanabe’s lawyers say he denies taking any compensation from Butler for the arrests. Instead, Tanabe contends he simply took tips from Butler just like narcotics officers learn about drug deals from informants, according to the article.

Butler testified that he tried the “dirty DUI” scheme on about a dozen men in the Bay Area. But only five of the set-ups netted an arrest. He said he would only employ the tactic in divorce or child-custody cases where men with children had a history of drunk-driving, the article said.

Butler also testified that as a private investigator, he also planted drugs, installed listening devices and committed insurance fraud. He cut a plea deal with prosecutors and is serving an eight-year sentence.

.You have to wonder what happened to the individuals who were arrested. Legally, the only defense would entrapment, which is difficult to prove in a DWI. The best strategy would probably be to challenge the initial stop. As a practical matter though, most prosecutors would not want to put an officer on the witness stand who was under indictment for a scheme like this.