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State Charges Dropped in Police Corruption Case

Prosecutors concentrate on federal counts in CNET investigation.

After a flurry of attention earlier this week about whether a defendant in a police corruption case could travel to appear on the Dr. Phil TV show, court action has returned to the more mundane — such as state court charges for matters such as sale of drugs and possession of stolen firearms.

The case against three former law enforcement officers and a private investigator involved in a Contra Costa County drug squad misconduct scandal was dropped Wednesday by the district attorney's office as the federal cases continue, attorneys said.

(The issue of defendant Norm Wielsch going to Los Angeles for the Dr. Phil Show appears to be over. But you can still vote in a Patch poll showing these results Thursday — 60 people said the defendant should get no special favors to go to LA, and 6 people said the defendant "should be allowed to travel and express himself.")

Norman Wielsch, 50, former commander of the now-defunct Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team, or CNET, former private investigator Christopher Butler, 49, former Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy Stephen Tanabe, 48, and former San Ramon police officer Louis Lombardi, 39, all face federal charges in the misconduct case.

Before federal authorities took over the case, the defendants were charged in state court for alleged offenses ranging from possessing and selling drugs and stolen firearms to allegations that Wielsch and Butler extorted money from employees at an illegal massage parlor.

Prosecutors Wednesday said that they dismissed the state charges to avoid interfering with the federal prosecutors' cases.

"We therefore move to dismiss these charges, without prejudice to our right to re-file them in the future should the need arise," Deputy District Attorney Hal Jewett said in a written statement. "However, given the progress the federal charges have made, and the probable measure of justice imposed in those cases, we believe it is highly unlikely we will need to return to this court in this matter."

Late last month, Lombardi pleaded guilty to all charges against him in federal court and admitted to stealing thousands of dollars in cash and property during searches of suspects' homes while working for CNET, among other crimes.
He faces a maximum sentence of more than 60 years in federal prison and is set to be sentenced in April.

A trial date has not yet been set the three other defendants, although Wielsch and Butler are scheduled to appear in federal court for a status conference on March 20.

Michael Cardoza, Wielsch's attorney, has said his client has admitted to committing some, but not all of the crimes with which he is charged and is negotiating a plea deal with federal attorneys.

Bay City News Service and Patch Staff contributed to this report

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