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After more than three months of deliberations, jurors in the “Riders” police misconduct trial have told the judge that they are deadlocked on many charges, suggesting that the longest criminal trial in county history has swung in the defense’s favor. At a Thursday afternoon hearing Alameda County Superior Court Judge Leopoldo Dorado indicated that the jury has reached verdicts on as few as a half-dozen of the 26 counts and was deadlocked on the others. As one juror wept, Dorado asked the panel to try again. “It is my order to you to continue to deliberate,” he said. Outside of the courtroom, Alameda County DA Thomas Orloff declined to comment. Defense attorney Michael Rains, who represents one of the three former police officers standing trial, said he was “cautiously optimistic” after Thursday’s hearing. “It is clear that continued deliberations have not resulted in verdicts,” Rains told a group of reporters. “They are stuck, obviously, on a lot of conflicts.” He cautioned, though, that it was unclear from the judge’s comments exactly how many verdicts have been reached. Rains and defense lawyer William Rapoport urged that the jury be sent home. “They have said it,” Rapoport said, “but the judge has to believe it.” Deadlocks on the major charges would be a blow to prosecutors, who began presenting testimony almost exactly one year ago. During the trial a pregnant juror has given birth, a courtroom bailiff has retired, and the lead prosecutor has taken a job with the Plumas County district attorney’s office, leaving DA Orloff to handle the case personally. The scandal erupted in July 2000, when rookie cop Keith Batt quit the police force after working 10 shifts. Batt, now a Pleasanton police officer and the prosecution’s star witness, told superiors about how a group of officers who called themselves the Riders used alarming tactics to patrol West Oakland: pummeling suspects, kidnapping, planting evidence, making false arrests and lying in police reports. The whistle-blower’s accusations led to the firing of Clarence “Chuck” Mabanag, Jude Siapno, Matthew Hornung and Francisco Vazquez. Mabanag, Siapno and Hornung face charges ranging from submitting false overtime to assault and kidnapping. Authorities believe Vazquez has fled the country. During the trial, the ex-officers’ defense team has argued that their clients were merely following orders to aggressively stop drug-related crime. On the witness stand, Mabanag and Siapno vehemently denied the charges and touted the awards and recognition police brass have given them over the years. Batt, who was failing as a rookie, had a strong motive to accuse senior officers of misconduct, Rains and Rapoport argued. Notes sent from the jury to the judge have indicated that discussions about the fate of the officers have been, at times, contentious. In June, Dorado admonished jurors to refrain from insulting or ridiculing each other and ordered them to treat each other with mutual respect. The judge said Thursday that the jury returned “several” unsigned verdict forms to him along with a note saying, “We are unable to reach unanimous verdicts on all the remaining counts.” Jurors have made decisions on at least four counts, Rains, Mabanag’s lawyer, said. Dorado said they reached a few more verdicts this week. “This time they returned empty forms,” said Edward Fishman, Hornung’s lawyer. “This is their clear indication that they’re done.” If the jury doesn’t convict the officers on any of the charges, the fired cops could try to get their jobs back through a grievance process, said Rapoport, Siapno’s attorney. If the jury convicts the officers on some counts but not all, there will be less opportunity to regain those jobs. Associated Press reports were used in compiling this story.

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