At least 20 DUI and vice cases have been dismissed in Contra Costa county as a sordid and shocking tale of corruption involving three local police departments unravels. Christopher Butler, a former police officer and private detective was at the center of an elaborate entrapment scam that discredited men going through divorce trials.
Butler would hire an attractive woman to go to a bar where she could approach the man who was in the process of getting a divorce from one of Butler’s clients. After starting a conversation, flirting, and sharing drinks, the woman would suggest that the target follow her in his car to her place.
On the way, he would be intercepted by police officers on the take from Butler, who would claim the man had been swerving and charge him with a DUI.
The DUI arrest gave Butler’s clients leverage in the court room, in one instance a woman successfully used it to prove that her ex-husband was unfit to see their children without supervision.
That, of course, is entrapment. And a particularly cruel form of it that shames its victims with the social stigma of a DUI while also taking away access to the victim’s children—all the victim’s lowest point.
In order to make it work, Butler enlisted the support of the San Ramon and Danville police departments and the state narcotics task force. Charges also allege that Butler sold drugs for law enforcement officers and assisted them in opening and operating a brothel.
In all his foul deeds, Butler managed not only to fool local courts, but the national media. His business, which touted its “gumshoe housewives” was highlighted in People magazine and on Dr. Phil.
Butler believed he was protected because any improprieties would be investigated by the state narcotics task force, a divisions in which Butler had high ranking friends. But when the FBI got involved in early 2011, things quickly fell apart.
Still, the matter of the DUIs remain. These victims, despite the circumstances, were drinking and driving. And though one could easily argue they learned through their ordeals, should they really have the charges dismissed?
The answer is yes, according to a rarely cited 19th century law that makes it a felony to conspire to subject another person to arrest.
The charges may be dropped, but the divorce verdicts, many of which favored victims now ex-wives, stand. Divorce proceedings are personal and can turn bitter, opening up old wounds with this new information, is unlikely to make anyone feel they’ve received justice, at least in the short term.
Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos