Pubdate: Fri, 11 Apr 2003
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2003 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Herbert A. Sample, Bee San Francisco Bureau
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


The Former Oakland Officer Denies Knowing Where Confiscated Pot Ended Up.

OAKLAND -- A former Oakland cop facing charges of kidnapping, assault and 
writing false reports on Thursday denied knowing the fate of a small bag of 
marijuana that he and his partner had confiscated from a suspected drug 
dealer. Jude Siapno, one of three ex-officers dubbed the "Riders" on trial 
in Alameda Superior Court, also testified under cross-examination that he 
released a West Oakland man suspected of being a lookout for drug dealers 
even though officers had been instructed to brook no tolerance for even the 
most minor offenses.

Siapno also told jurors that his one-time patrol partner, who was 
implicated in the alleged crimes but is now a fugitive, had tried to commit 
suicide after being placed on leave by the Police Department in the wake of 
the allegations.

"Frank lost his mind and tried to shoot himself," Siapno testified, 
referring to former Sgt. Frank Vazquez. "He was a proud man."

Siapno, 34, is charged with assaulting and kidnapping Matthew Watson, 
beating Delphine Allen, filing false reports and conspiracy to make false 
arrests. Co-defendants Matthew Hornung and Clarence Mabanag face false 
report charges.

The three officers and Vazquez patrolled West Oakland in mid-2000, often as 
part of an effort to rid the area of drug dealing. The defense claims they 
are being prosecuted for being the aggressive crime fighters that police 
brass and top city officials wanted them to be.

During Siapno's initial day of cross-examination on Thursday, prosecutor 
David Hollister attempted to catch the veteran officer in contradictions to 
the testimony of other officers and the evidence entered earlier in the 
nearly seven-month trial.

For example, Hollister questioned Siapno about his arrest and quick release 
of a man who Siapno testified was working for dealers by watching out for 

"What happened to zero tolerance?" Hollister asked.

"Buckley didn't have anything on him," Siapno replied, adding that he was 
reluctant to book the man because prosecutors usually drop charges against 
someone acting as a lookout for dealers.

Hollister also pressed Siapno about why the officer, having on another 
occasion arrested Watson for drug dealing, failed to obtain videotape from 
a surveillance camera that may have recorded Watson's transactions.

"I didn't think it was necessary," Siapno testified. Hollister then 
inquired if officers are trained to recover evidence.

"That's kind of the idea behind police work, isn't it?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes, sir," Siapno replied.

Hollister also attempted to cast doubt on Siapno's assertions during direct 
testimony this week that Watson's injuries were sustained in an earlier 
fight with rival dealers. The prosecutor pointed to a large blow-up of 
Watson's booking photograph that showed an apparently fresh-cut lip and 
swollen eye.

Watson's hands also appeared dusty except for cleaner spots where Hollister 
suggested the suspect was handcuffed during a scuffle.

Didn't you split his lip or throw him on the ground? Hollister asked.

"No, sir," Siapno replied.

Hollister later zeroed in on the fate of a bag of marijuana Siapno and 
Vazquez confiscated from a suspected drug dealer. Hollister suggested 
Vazquez used it to compensate an informant.

Siapno said that Vazquez told him it was sent to police headquarters to be 

"Where would the marijuana go?" Hollister asked.

"I don't know," Siapno replied.

"That marijuana disappeared that night, didn't it?" Hollister prodded.

"No, sir," the defendant answered.

Hollister later told reporters there is no record of the marijuana being 
sent for disposal. He noted that the four officers, over many years of 
service, had never previously sent confiscated drugs to be destroyed.

Siapno's lawyer, William Rapoport, shrugged off the courtroom exchange 
about the marijuana.

"Jude didn't take it," he said outside the courtroom. "Jude doesn't know 
what happened to it. That's the end of that discussion for him."

Cross-examination of Siapno continues next week. Hornung and Mabanag may 
testify in their own defense after Siapno finishes.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom