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The former police officers charged with brutalizing suspects and falsifying reports were under orders to do whatever it took to stop drug dealers in West Oakland, defense attorney Michael Rains said Tuesday. During his opening statement, Rains told jurors about what he called the “ugly truth” — that cops have to be vulgar to intimidate suspects, inflict pain to subdue criminals and arrest loiterers in bad neighborhoods. Rains, a partner in the Pleasant Hill firm Rains, Lucia & Wilkinson, represents Clarence Mabanag; Edward Fishman, a Petaluma attorney, represents Matthew Hornung; and William Rapoport, of San Mateo, represents Jude Siapno. A fourth officer, Francisco Vazquez, is a fugitive and is believed to be in Mexico. All four of the officers have since been fired. The former officers face 26 criminal counts that they engaged in illegal tactics to arrest drug suspects and then covered up their actions. “In the fall of 1999, the police department declared war,” Rains told jurors. “They declared a war on crime and . . . upon street drug dealers. They sent out soldiers to fight that war — and those soldiers are on trial.” Rains said Keith Batt — the cop who originally blew the whistle on the self-styled “Riders” team of cops — is “cunning, he’s conniving, he’s deceitful.” Batt, a former rookie Oakland cop who is now a Pleasanton police officer, was a floundering, naive rookie from Sebastopol when he reported the alleged incidents of brutality, Rains said. “The remarkable thing is not what Batt said, but what Batt did not say,” Rains told the jury. Batt had many opportunities to alert superiors but didn’t do it until he was worried about his professional future, Rains said, adding a cryptic comment to the jury: “Stay tuned.” In fact, Rains said, Batt was afraid he wouldn’t be hired at another department if he failed in Oakland. Batt, who has since filed an individual suit against the city, was simply engaging in a “money grab,” Rains said, as he used a projector to show images of the pending lawsuits on a screen for jurors. And the suspects who have made complaints about police brutality are career criminals who are trying to cash in on the controversy through civil lawsuits, he said. “[The suspects] know that if [the officers] get convicted, they get money. It’s the lotto.” Batt has also accused the Riders of instructing him to falsify police reports, and those reports make up the bulk of the charges against the former officers, according to the prosecution. One of the most egregious misconduct allegations — that of Delphine Allen, who was allegedly handcuffed and beaten by Mabanag — involves a suspect who was arrested two years earlier for drug-dealing, Rains said. Before the jury was seated in court Tuesday, there was a heated battle between the prosecution and defense over video footage that Rains unexpectedly tried to use in his opening statement. The footage depicted poor West Oakland neighborhoods, prostitutes and drug-dealing. Prosecutor David Hollister angrily argued that the clips and some preliminary hearing transcripts Rains introduced were “sprung” on him at the last minute on Monday. And, he said, the prostitution shown on the video is irrelevant. He was also angry that clips from the video showed up in Tuesday’s Oakland Tribune. As far as the preliminary hearing transcripts, Hollister said, they shouldn’t be used because the jury might mistakenly believe they’re evidence. Rains said the transcripts show inconsistencies between what Batt told Internal Affairs investigators and what he testified at the preliminary hearing. The video was shot in the past few weeks and would give jurors a better idea of what police had to deal with in crime-ridden parts of West Oakland, he said. Rains said he didn’t show the Tribune the tapes, and he didn’t know how the reporter saw the clips. But he came in for a scolding from Alameda County Superior Court Judge Leopoldo Dorado, who told Rains he had plenty of time to tell him about the video — “Yesterday would have been a good point” — the judge said before excluding the material. “I hope that we don’t have this as an ongoing problem in the case,” the judge added. Two segments of film that the judge had earlier approved and the prosecution had seen were admitted. Rains complained that Dorado’s ruling “gutted” his opening argument and wiped out 53 of more than 100 exhibits he had planned to use Tuesday. When Rains is finished, Rapoport and Fishman will present their opening statements. Batt is scheduled to testify today. The trial, which is predicted to last about three months, will have an impact that will extend far beyond the three officers on trial. More than 80 cases were eventually dismissed because they relied heavily on police reports or testimony from the accused officers, and a civil case — with more than 100 plaintiffs lined up — is pending in federal court.

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