Alameda County DA Releases Long-Secret Files on Cop Wrongdoing

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday released information it maintains related to police officers' credibility on Tuesday. (Adam Grossberg/KQED)

As the state Supreme Court ponders how California’s new police transparency law affects records that prosecutors keep on cops’ credibility to testify in court, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday released some of those long-secret files, including records on officers charged with sexual assault and dishonesty.

The DA’s office released the cases of eight former police officers that it found to be disclosable under SB 1421. They range from a 2007 case in which a Hayward officer went to prison for having sexual contact with underage boys to a 2017 case in which charges were dropped against an officer alleged to have had sex with a 17-year-old girl he met through a youth program.

The documents are known as Brady records, named for a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady vs. Maryland, in which justices ruled that prosecutors must disclose to criminal defendants any information that might be favorable to their case. That includes past dishonesty by officers involved in the case.

Changes to Brady Restrictions?

Evidence of an officer’s dishonesty or “moral turpitude” can be used by defense attorneys to impeach their testimony. But this evidence is difficult to obtain and has been highly protected by court decisions and California’s highly secretive police-privacy laws.

Sponsored

A legal expert said new transparency involving Brady records could benefit those charged with crimes.

“For criminal defendants, access to this information is hugely important to their ability to get a fair trial, and too often this information doesn’t get turned over," said Lara Bazelon, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

She said while prosecutors have an obligation to turn over information impeaching an officer's credibility to defendants, police agencies are actually barred from providing that information to district attorneys without a court order.

The state Supreme Court is currently considering how prosecutors throughout California should comply with their Brady obligations, given these restrictions. That case originated because the district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles created systems to proactively alert prosecutors about officers with potential credibility issues.

Loading

But those notifications ran afoul of California’s wall of privacy protections concerning police misconduct, a state appeals court ruled in 2017.

“A lot of times, the explanation from the DA is 'we didn’t have it,'" Bazelon said.

The state Supreme Court recently directed law enforcement unions, prosecutors and other parties in the case to argue whether the new transparency law, SB 1421, affects the issue.

The records released Tuesday include hundreds of pages of interview transcripts with victims and other internal records not made public when the officers were charged.

Explorers Abuse

In 2017, San Leandro Police Officer Marco Becerra, then 26, was arrested and charged for unlawful sex with a 17-year-old girl he met through the Police Explorers program, where he was an adviser. The Explorers is a youth program for teens interested in a law enforcement career.

Criminal investigators within the San Leandro Police Department started looking into allegations made by the victim’s counselor. The investigation found that Becerra had sex with the teen at least six times in various locations that included the San Leandro Marina in his mother’s car.

They two also exchanged sexually explicit text messages in which the victim referred to Becerra as “Officer Big Bird” and “Daddy”.

Prosecutors later dropped Becerra’s charges saying the victim didn’t want to cooperate. The released records show the victim did speak with investigators and even went so far as to tape phone conversations with Becerra in which he admitted knowing her age.

Cops Involved With Sex Workers

Another record involved a former Oakland officer who told a teenage sex worker known as Celeste Guap about an undercover operation in Oakland. This was part of a wide-ranging 2016 sexual exploitation case that rocked several Bay Area police departments.

In the wake of that scandal, Oakland Officer Ryan Walterhouse was charged for his involvement with a different prostitute in the city.

The DA’s newly released documents indicate that the sex worker’s pimp told Oakland police investigators about the officer's alleged disclosures. The pimp who is referred to as “X” in the document, told police that the prostitute “has the key to the city right now.”

The documents also show Walterhouse used the Venmo app to transfer $200 to the prostitute, allegedly for oral sex.

Prosecutors ultimately dropped charges against Walterhouse after questions were raised by the defense about the witnesses’ credibility.

The other records released by the Alameda County District Attorney Tuesday included:

  • A 2013 case, in which former Hayward Officer Romero Aberin pleaded no contest to a felony charge stemming from shaking down a woman he was investigating for money, after he tried to make her a confidential informant.
  • A San Leandro cop, Greg Cannedy, who pulled over and stalked a woman he wanted to have sex with in 2007. Cannedy pleaded no contest to false imprisonment charges.
  • Another 2007 case involving Jeffrey Cristofani, a Hayward officer who was charged for allegedly having sex with underage boys.
  • A former Alameda County sheriff's deputy, Craig Records, who allegedly beat up a man at a nightclub who was trying to dance with a female friend in 2007. Records fractured the orbital bone in the man's right eye.
  • Hayward Officer Jose Nunez, who pleaded no contest to false imprisonment in 2004.

Sponsored

This story was produced as part of the California Reporting Project, a collaboration of more than 30 newsrooms across the state to obtain and report on police misconduct and serious use-of-force records unsealed in 2019.

Volume
KQED Live
Live Stream
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
Live Stream information currently unavailable.
Share
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
KQED Live

Live Stream

Live Stream information currently unavailable.