Pubdate: Thu, 02 Nov 2000
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2000 San Francisco Chronicle
Author: Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer


Alameda County Crackdown In Police Corruption Probe

OAKLAND -- In one of the toughest crackdowns against police corruption in
Oakland history, the Alameda County district attorney will charge four
police officers known as ``The Riders'' with a total of 48 felonies.

Kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, assault under color of authority
and filing false police reports are among the most serious charges stemming
from a three-month investigation into accusations that officers in West
Oakland were beating suspects and planting evidence, an attorney for one of
the officers said yesterday.

The four officers, who probably will surrender to authorities, also will
face a total of 11 misdemeanors, said the attorney, Michael Rains of
Pleasant Hill.

Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff and Oakland Police Chief Richard
Word will hold a news conference today to formally announce the charges
against the officers, who were turned in to their supervisors in late July
by a rookie cop who left the department.

Although none of the officers have been arrested, prosecutors have already
proposed bail figures for officers Matt Hornung, 28; Clarence ``Chuck''
Mabanag, 35; Jude Siapno, 32, and Francisco Vazquez, 43, said Rains,
Mabanag's attorney.

The charges against Vazquez appear to be the most serious, with a bail of
$195,000, Rains said. Siapno's suggested bail is $175,000, Mabanag's is
$157,000, and Hornung's is $54,000, according to Rains. Other attorneys in
the case could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Rains said he and the other officers' lawyers will probably object to bail
and try to work out a plan that allows the officers to surrender.

John Crew, a police practices specialist for the American Civil Liberties
Union in San Francisco, described the Oakland case as ``the most
significant, in terms of scope,'' that he has seen in Northern California
during his 15 years of tracking such cases.


``It's potentially as significant as the Rampart scandal in Los Angeles,''
he said referring to the corruption probe of a Los Angeles Police Department
sector that has resulted in many convictions being overturned.

Noting that the Oakland case developed after a rookie police officer blew
the whistle, Crew said major questions remain about ``other police officers
who may have been in a position to know about these activities and did not
report them.''

``You can't look at the scope of this scandal in Oakland -- four different
officers facing 48 different felonies -- and not be concerned about the
atmosphere'' that allowed it to happen, Crew said.

Oakland's scandal followed a 1999 announcement by Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown
that crime reduction was one of his top goals for the city. But Brown and
Word have made no excuses for the officers and promise to clean up criminal
conduct within the department as well as on the streets.

The four officers will be named in a criminal complaint that outlines
charges against all four as well as charges against specific officers, said
Rains, who had not seen the complaint but was familiar with its contents.
Other charges include conspiracy to obstruct justice and willful inhumanity
to prisoners.


``It's a sad day for my client; it's a sad day for the four officers and
their families and the Oakland Police Department,'' Rains said. ``These are
very, very good officers who have had excellent records with this

Mabanag, who won a department medal of merit in 1997 for his narcotics work,
has been charged with 15 felonies and four or five misdemeanors, his
attorney said.

The scandal could lead in some cases to convicted individuals being freed,
released from parole or probation or resentenced, authorities say. Those
arrested could have their charges dismissed.

As for the officers, a felony conviction would automatically prevent them
being peace officers.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at  ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck