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Butler Gets 8 Years in Dirty DUI Scandal

Former Concord private eye has agreed to testify against federal co-defendants in divorce, DUI and drug investigation.

Bay City News Service

A former Concord private investigator who pleaded guilty to seven felony charges for his role in a Contra Costa County law enforcement scandal was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in federal prison.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong in Oakland for 50-year-old Christopher Butler for offenses in the so-called "Dirty DUI" scheme that include drug offenses, conspiracy, extortion and illegal wiretapping, was four and a half years less than the 12-and-a-half-year term recommended by federal probation officers.

and charged with six counts of unlawfully intercepting communications and tax evasion in connection with referring clients to Butler to planting concealed listening devices in the vehicles of targeted spouses. Nolan, who was arrested last week, pleaded not guilty at a brief court appearance in federal court Tuesday to charges of evading taxes and conspiring with Butler.

Butler's attorney, William Gagen of Danville, admitted after the hearing that the light sentence for Butler was "a substantial departure" from federal sentencing guidelines for the crimes for which he was convicted. But Gagen pointed out that the eight-year term was recommended by the U.S. Attorney's Office because of what Gagen described as Butler's "extraordinary" cooperation with prosecutors since he was arrested last year.

Butler, a former Antioch police officer, pleaded guilty on May 4 in connection with drug possession and sales, robbery, conspiracy against civil rights, extortion and other crimes he committed as a private investigator working with members of the Contra Costa County Drug Enforcement Team, or CNET, over a period of about four years.

Among others who have been charged in connection with the corruption are former CNET Cmdr. Norman Wielsch, 50, former Contra Costa Sheriff's Deputy Stephen Tanabe, 48, former San Ramon police Officer Louis Lombardi, 39, and San Ramon divorce attorney Mary Nolan, 60.

Lombardi was sentenced in May to three years in federal prison in exchange for admitting his theft of more than $40,000 during searches of suspects' homes.

Not guilty pleas

Wielsch and Tanabe have also pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial on the charges against them.

In his guilty plea, Butler said that between June 2009 and February 2011, he teamed with Wielsch to sell large quantities of marijuana, methamphetamine and steroids obtained during CNET searches of suspects' homes. Working with an employee in his Concord private investigation firm to sell the drugs, Butler and Wielsch split the proceeds, which totaled no more than about $30,000, according to Gagen.

On several occasions, Butler drove Wielsch to the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office evidence facility to take drugs from lockers and keep them for sale, Butler told the court. The private investigator also admitted to conspiring with Wielsch to stage illegal search-and-seizure operations of prostitutes the CNET commander found via online ads on websites such as Craigslist.com and Redbook.com.

The pair met the prostitutes at hotels in San Ramon and throughout the Bay Area, with Butler acting as the john. After knocking on the door, Wielsch would burst in the room, show his police badge and seize the woman's possessions and cash, Butler said. Butler also pleaded guilty to helping Wielsch in 2009 open an illegal massage parlor where the masseuses provided sexual services. He admitted Tuesday to collecting more than $10,000 from the women working there in exchange for protection from Wielsch.

Addressing allegations of illegal wire-tapping, Butler described how he illegally installed between 75 and 100 listening devices in the vehicles of his clients' spouses to secretly record their conversations for his clients and their attorneys. Butler also admitted to working with Tanabe to stage drunken-driving arrests of his clients' spouses, who were often involved in custody battles or other legal disputes.

As part of his plea agreement, Butler agreed to testify if asked against Wielsch and Tanabe if their cases go to trial.

Before he was sentenced, Butler, a bald, bespectacled man who was dressed in light brown jail clothes, said, "I apologize to the community for the anxiety, fear and suffering I caused others and to the law enforcement community for the embarrassment and betrayal I inflicted on it." Butler said he also apologizes "to my friends and family who supported me through all of this."

Gagen said Butler has been taking philosophy courses and other subjects through Holy Names College in Oakland since he was arrested. Gagen said Butler "is genuinely sorry" for the crimes he committed and predicted, "when he gets out of prison he will be a very different man."

The defense lawyer said Butler is in protective custody 23 hours a day at the federal prison in Pleasanton because of concerns that other inmates might target him because he's a former police officer and is considered "a snitch" because he has promised to testify against the other suspects in the case.

terry September 26, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Well its about time and I as said previously they would plea bargain there way out. 8 years will surely turn that once one a be tough guy into someone's girlfriend. .And his partner Wielsch with now nothing to give up since his old buddy turned States Evidence can look forward to a longer time in the hole. ........... But you know the best part is yet to come as Mary Nolan the crooked attorney will finally be held accountable for here unconscionable part in these heinous crimes.............perhaps even her clients will be rung up! As she can look forward to her complete case load along with any divorce settlements based on these cases be partitioned and overturned and lead to civil lawsuits.........I hope she rots in Jail...........
P September 26, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Shame on the Judge for not giving the recommended sentence of 12.5 years on this guy. Butler was the leader and instigator of all this criminal activity. That he should get such a light sentence of only 8 years (because of his "help" in testifying against the others) is an attrocious injustice. Almost a walk in the park. (And wonder how long he'll actually have to serve?) He is such a con man in so many directions. He almost made himself into a TV show star. I wonder whether he'll be changed for the good when he comes out? (Hope so.) Doubt whether Federal prison will be that tough on him.....or that there is any real danger of his becoming "someone's girlfriend" in that setting.
Phil Dominic October 06, 2012 at 04:48 PM
If Mary Nolan owes you money? Get it as soon as you can , Because her new wage is going to be starting at about 35 cents an hour in the fed prison...
CNET Activist October 11, 2012 at 02:34 AM
In 2004 Chris Butler walked into to my house days after a Danville Building Inspector severely beat me. Eight years later my car is totaled in Lafayette and the best Chief Christeson can say "it's unfortunate that a SFPD Lieutenant ran you off the road" Really Chief? I did that in 2006 and these cops beat up my attorney badly enough he relocated his practice 500 miles away. The Danville Town Council has done nothing to help, my sons live in a trailer, my finances destroyed, my losses over the top. Please feel to call the Sherriff up and ask him about my June 2009 police report - my allegations are that I was poisoned and beloved Councilman Mike Shimansky died of exactly what I said in the police report. You'll never hear the truth becuase every investigator that I've spoken with is knee deep in the muck. I told Joel Golub that they (Danville Officers and others) worked pretty hard to kill me. I told him my truck was rigged to explode on NB 680 and that I was nearly beaten to death. He's an officer of the court and was duty bound to report his personal knowledge of events. I'll be blunt-the're too many suicides, suspucious deaths with persons near the CNET Story and local divorce attorneys, law enforcement agencies are hiding from you what is going on. In March an acquaintance was murdered, suspect caught and without much ado is a free man with a misdeamenor plea deal. The Danville Council could have stopped Butler 8 years ago - time to resign
Marilee April 27, 2013 at 11:33 PM
dirty scumbags!!!! Of course they get light sentences....I would like to of seen 25 yrs minimum.....dirty ^&%$ make the good cops look bad.....

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