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Fired Oakland police officer Jude Siapno wept on the witness stand Thursday while reading a commendation he had once received. But Siapno was calm and terse under cross-examination by prosecutor David Hollister, who tried to show that the ex-officer is using a police department drug crackdown that ended in 1999 to explain crimes he committed in 2000. Siapno and ex-police officers Charles Mabanag and Matthew Hornung are on trial before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Leopoldo Dorado for allegedly falsifying police reports, kidnapping, planting evidence and assaulting suspects. Francisco Vazquez, another accused former officer, is missing and considered a fugitive. The three have been on trial since September, and Siapno became the first to defend himself on the witness stand this week. The probe began after former rookie Keith Batt quit the police force in 2000, after working just 10 shifts and told superiors he’d witnessed and heard about officer misconduct. After Siapno’s attorney, San Mateo solo William Rapoport, finished his direct examination, he asked Siapno to read aloud a commendation he had received. As Siapno read the praise, he broke down in tears. When Rapoport asked why, Siapno declined to answer because he didn’t “want to talk about my personal life.” During the emotional moment, the judge looked away and jurors stared ahead without expression until Siapno regained his composure. The defendants have said they were acting under orders from higher-ups in the force. Siapno claimed that a “zero tolerance” campaign against drug dealers that the department enacted — which ended in 1999 — could explain some of the things the officers have been criticized for. He also said many things he’s accused of were misunderstandings or just didn’t happen. But Hollister’s questions Thursday were designed to show that the defendants used arbitrary, heavy-handed tactics. He questioned Siapno about one incident in which a juvenile named Maurice Buckley was an alleged lookout for a drug dealer. “To get rid of this drug problem in West Oakland, what did you do with Maurice Buckley?” Hollister said. “I let him go,” Siapno answered, explaining that lookouts were hard to prosecute, so many officers let such suspects go free. “Everyone does it,” Siapno added. “What about ‘zero tolerance’?” Hollister asked. The prosecutor then referred to an incident in which Siapno and co-defendant Vazquez are accused of kidnapping a suspect — Delphine Allen — taking him under a freeway overpass and beating him. “You were willing to arrest Delphine Allen for drinking in public,” the prosecutor said. “Did [the deputy chief] say zero tolerance was for when you feel like it?” “No,” Siapno answered. Siapno is also accused of kidnapping and assaulting another suspect, Matthew Watson, but he testified that Watson was injured before he was arrested. Hollister asked Siapno to explain a post-arrest photo of Watson, in which dirt on Watson’s hands indicate that the teenager was thrown on the ground after he was handcuffed. Siapno said that he could not explain it. The prosecutor hammered Siapno about the zero tolerance program, or Project SANE. “Project SANE didn’t tell you to falsify police reports, did it? Project SANE didn’t tell you to use unreasonable force, did it?” Hollister asked. “No sir,” Siapno answered. Hollister also picked at Siapno’s account of the Watson arrest. In an apparent attempt to show that he wasn’t the callous person the allegations make him seem to be, Siapno testified that he confiscated money from Watson, but gave half of it back. Hollister questioned why Siapno would do that if there was truly a crackdown on drug dealing. The prosecutor, using jargon that refers to the practice of some officers who try to placate suspects after frightening them, said, “You did that to dust him off after [he got] those injuries.” “No sir,” Siapno replied In talking about his co-defendants, Siapno said he and Mabanag were barely on speaking terms while they were officers, but have since become close. He also testified that Vazquez was a “proud man” who “lost his mind” after he was accused of misconduct. At one point, Siapno said, Vazquez tried to shoot himself — a statement that seemed to startle the jurors. He added that Vazquez had trouble sleeping, to which Hollister fired back, “Frank realized that he had been caught.” “No sir,” Siapno replied. “He was a proud man. Cross-examination is expected to resume on Monday. Mabanag’s defense attorney, Michael Rains, said Mabanag and Oakland Police Chief Richard Word will testify. It’s unlikely that Hornung will testify, he said.

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