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The rookie cop who blew the whistle on alleged wrongdoing by cops in the Oakland police force stayed cool and calm in the face of tough cross-examination Thursday — and even managed to score a few points of his own. Keith Batt, who is now a Pleasanton police officer, is the prosecution’s star witness in the trial of three former cops who called themselves the “Riders.” Edward Fishman, who represents Matthew Hornung, used his cross-examination time to try to show that his client was not involved in any illegal acts. Hornung, Clarence Mabanag and Jude Siapno face more than 20 counts, ranging from turning in false overtime slips to roughing up suspects. Hornung, for the most part, is charged with conspiracy counts and lying in police reports. Unlike Siapno, he has not been charged with brutality. Fishman asked Batt if Hornung ever said he was one of the Riders, or if he ever used a phrase like “fuck probable cause” — referring to a statement Batt testified earlier that Mabanag made — or if he ever told anyone to falsify a police report. Batt said Hornung had never done any of those things, and added that he was one of the officers who was the nicest to him. The defense has suggested that Batt’s accusations are fueled by his feelings of inadequacy — he was a Sebastopol native that defense attorneys say was ill-prepared for the mean streets of Oakland — and by teasing that he endured from other officers over his small stature. Like defense attorney Michael Rains — who represents Mabanag — did earlier, Fishman tried to show that Batt’s memory was poor about his final days on the police force. And Fishman said Batt took notes about what he saw the Riders doing during his 10 shifts on the Oakland police force. Those notes, which Batt gave to internal affairs, can’t be found, Fishman said. At one point Fishman tried to get Batt to admit he may have lied about how long he spoke with internal affairs investigators. “I remember now what I was thinking then,” Batt said. “The way you ask questions and talk in circles is confusing.” During one of several tense exchanges with Rains, the attorney drawled, “Let’s talk about that [internal affairs interview], before you got prepped and before you had mock examinations.” Earlier, Rains tried to get Batt to say that he initially complained to internal affairs about excessive force allegedly used by other defendants except Mabanag. At the time, Batt’s chief complaint was that Mabang berated him, Rains suggested. Instead, Batt responded that he told investigators that Mabanag’s purpose in taunting him was to goad Batt into taking out his aggression on other people — such as suspects. Rains asked incredulously where that information was in the interview transcript — to which Batt quickly flipped through the voluminous text and found the page. Rains moved on to another topic. Much of the defense strategy has centered on Batt’s motives — if he had resigned for personal reasons, instead of saying that illegal deeds forced him to leave, his police career would have been over, defense attorneys have said. Earlier, Rains also suggested that District Attorney Thomas Orloff helped pull strings so that Batt was able to join the Pleasanton police force. After Batt left Oakland, he applied to the Sebastopol Police Department, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department and to Pleasanton. Although Batt has family in Sebastopol and Sonoma, he has no ties to Pleasanton. Batt said he talked about the Pleasanton Police Department with prosecutor David Hollister, but he never discussed it with Orloff. William Rapoport, the attorney for Jude Siapno, is expected to cross-examine Batt next. Siapno is one of the officers accused of taking suspects on two different occasions under a freeway overpass and beating them. During this week’s testimony, spectators’ seats in the courtroom have been filled with prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys and a few judges hoping to catch a glimpse of the drama. All three defendants have been fired. Authorities believe that a fourth fired officer, Francisco Vazquez, may have fled the country. Depending on the outcome of the criminal trial, the U.S. attorney’s office could pursue criminal charges in federal court for civil rights violations, as they did after the criminal trial in the Rodney King case. As a result of the scandal, more than 80 cases that relied heavily on reports or other information supplied by the accused officers have been dismissed. Since then, more than 100 plaintiffs have filed federal lawsuits that claim that the former cops on trial and other police officers violated their civil rights. The plaintiffs seek police department reforms and damages that could cost Oakland millions.

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