Key Witness testifies in Federal Dirty DUI Case from Contra Costa County
Former bartender Jodi Simms, who worked for Private Investigator Chris Butler, testified this week at the federal corruption trial of former Contra Costa Deputy Sheriff Stephen Tanabe. Tanabe is being prosecuted in Federal court for making prearranged arrests in DUI cases at the request of a friend, private investigator Chris Butler, in exchange for $200 in cocaine and a pistol. Prosecutors said that Simms was the one who purchased the $200 in cocaine for Butler, who passed it on to Tanabe as payment for arresting one of Butler's targets. Tanabe admitted that he arrested the men after Butler tipped him to the drunk drivers, but has denied he accepted drugs and a firearm.
Jodi Simms would help Butler by being a decoy for his targets. She had helped him numerous times, yet she said she drew the line when Butler asked her to plant cocaine on an innocent man to help with a “dirty DUI” bust. Simms said she did not know who the cocaine was for but she delivered it to Butler in Danville.
Instead of going around and looking for drunk drivers, Tanabe and his partner parked in front of a bar in Danville, California waiting for a targeted man to come out intoxicated and get behind the wheel. Tanabe would get help from his private investigator friend Chris Butler, who would lure the victims in with fabricated stories. In one particular instance target Mitchell Katz, owner of a winery in Livermore, was told about creating a reality show about his winery. Katz did not know that the people he came to the bar with were all involved in a scheme to get him arrested.
Defense attorneys portray Butler as a ruthless liar who works off performing dirty deeds for his client. Butler admitted that he robbed prostitutes of cash and cell phones. He also admitted that he was hired to burn down a house and plant drugs in a man's suitcase. Butler hopes that his honest testimony will lead to a reduced sentence. Tanabe is charged with wire fraud (18 U.S.C. section 1343), conspiracy (18 U.S.C. section 371), and extortion under color of official right (18 U.S.C. section 1951), which carry up to 20 years in prison.
To read more about the case check out the following articles in the SF Chronicle: