Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
After Alameda County prosecutors lost a historic police misconduct trial Tuesday, all eyes shifted to District Attorney Thomas Orloff and Northern District U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan. Orloff must decide whether to retry the case after a jury acquitted three accused officers of eight crimes, but hung on the remaining 27 charges. Judge Leopoldo Dorado accepted the eight verdicts and declared a mistrial for the rest. U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan must decide whether to attempt charging the defendants — who managed to walk away from the longest criminal trial in county history — with civil rights crimes. Hours after the trial ended, neither man had an answer. “I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Orloff said. “It’s a question at this time I don’t have an answer for,” the DA said, adding his office will determine whether it’s “reasonably probable” that a new trial will yield convictions. Ryan is also weighing his options. “In light of the not-guilty verdicts on some counts, and the mistrial declared on the other counts, we intend to analyze the evidence, consult with the district attorney and the civil rights division of the Justice Department and make a determination about whether there is sufficient evidence to bring a federal civil rights prosecution,” Ryan said. Orloff and Ryan’s decisions will determine the next twist in a scandal that sparked a marathon trial and led to sweeping changes in Oakland’s police department. In July 2000, rookie cop Keith Batt quit the police force after working 10 shifts. He told superiors a group of self-styled “Riders” cops used alarming tactics to patrol West Oakland: pummeling, kidnapping and planting evidence on suspects, making false arrests and lying in police reports. Batt became the prosecution’s star witness, and his accusations — which were bolstered with testimony from suspects who said they were mistreated — led to the firing of Clarence Mabanag, Jude Siapno, Matthew Hornung and Francisco Vazquez. Mabanag, Siapno and Hornung have stood trial. Authorities believe Vazquez has fled the country. During the trial, the ex-officers’ defense team tried to show that their clients followed orders from police brass to aggressively cut drug crime. Batt was a failing rookie who had a strong motive to accuse senior officers of misconduct, argued defense attorneys Michael Rains, William Rapoport and Edward Fishman. On Tuesday, after four months of deliberations, the jury found the officers not guilty of eight crimes, including conspiring to make false arrests, kidnapping, assault and lying about overtime. However, it deadlocked on the remaining 27 allegations, including making false police reports, an additional kidnapping charge and conspiring to obstruct justice. Attorneys are scheduled to return to court Oct. 15 to discuss a retrial. Outside the courthouse, defense attorneys blasted the DA for pursuing a weak case and said they were ready for a retrial. The jury understood “the reality of violence in Oakland” and that “officers had to use aggressive tactics to deal with a bad problem,” said lead defense attorney Rains, of Pleasant Hill’s Rains, Lucia & Wilkinson. The jurors were escorted out of the courthouse by sheriff’s deputies. Defense lawyers said the jurors told them that they never believed Batt. The DA “overcharged it,” said Rapoport. “Their witnesses were not credible. [The case] was based on a flawed investigation. We exposed the flaws.” However, civil rights lawyers called on Orloff to either retry the case or for Ryan to pursue criminal civil rights charges in federal court. In the Rodney King case, federal prosecutors were able to convict police officers of violating King’s civil rights after the defendants were acquitted in state court. “We believe that this case should be retried,” said Berkeley attorney James Chanin, who, along with Oakland attorney John Burris, represented Riders victims who filed civil suits against the city in federal court. Many of those victims were black. Unless the DA or federal prosecutors move forward, the verdicts send a message to African-American residents that officers “can cross the line, and that they don’t have to adhere to standards,” said Burris, adding that he spoke with the U.S. attorney’s office, urging it to pursue the case. Orloff and the trial prosecutor, David Hollister, said they were disappointed with the verdicts. “The jury’s decision I accept,” said Orloff, adding that he “strongly” disagreed with the panel. “I am disappointed in it, somewhat frustrated by it, but I accept it.” In many ways the case, perhaps the most ambitious police misconduct probe ever launched by the DA, had taken on a personal dimension for Orloff. After Hollister left the DA’s office this summer to become the chief assistant DA in Plumas County, Orloff took over the case. And, early on in the Riders case, Orloff asked Batt to meet with him, the DA said. Orloff said he wanted to see for himself whether the rookie had the “personal fortitude” to go through with the trial. “After speaking with him on that day, I looked him in the eye and said ‘Keith, if you were my son, I’d be extremely proud of you,’” Orloff said at a press conference following the trial. “I still feel that way today.” It was unclear what, if any, political impact the case would have on Orloff. Unlike the office of San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, which was widely criticized for its handling of the so-called fajitagate police scandal, Orloff’s office is widely respected throughout the state. Local politicians rarely publicly attack Orloff’s credibility, as they do Hallinan’s. Regardless of the case’s outcome, it has had a profound impact on Oakland. As the criminal trial played out in Dorado’s court, the impact of the police scandal grew. Prosecutors reviewed and dismissed more than 80 cases that relied heavily on the accused officers’ statements. In February, Oakland city leaders agreed to an $11 million settlement with 119 plaintiffs who said they were victims of rogue cops. Plaintiffs’ attorneys will collect nearly $4 million in fees from the settlement. As part of the five-year deal, the city agreed to implement a reform plan to increase oversight of officers and bolster accountability within the police department. A Washington, D.C., law firm, Relman & Associates, is part of the panel monitoring those changes. In the wake of the jury’s decision, defense attorneys said they are unsure if the officers would pursue civil litigation against the city. Rapoport, however, said the city “threw away $11 million in taxpayers’ money” by settling the case. City attorney John Russo defended the city’s decision to settle the Riders federal civil suits. The city, which was sued by 119 plaintiffs, faced the prospect of litigating 24 separate trials, which would have cost at least $250,000 each, Russo said. A civil jury would only have to be persuaded there was wrongdoing by a preponderance of evidence, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt, Russo said. “The fact that the jury was hung tells me that we made the right decision,” he said. The Riders case dragged on for more than a year in Dorado’s courtroom. Opening statements began in September 2002, and the trial lasted so long that a pregnant juror had to be dismissed to give birth. After closing arguments in May, the jury deliberated for four months. During that time, a courtroom bailiff retired and trial prosecutor Hollister left the DA’s office for another job. During the final weeks of deliberations, relations between the jurors grew tense and emotional. At one point, Dorado admonished them to refrain from name-calling. According to Rains, the jurors told him Tuesday that they “came close to blows on at least one occasion” during their deliberations. When Dorado told the jurors to try again after they were deadlocked earlier this month, one juror cried.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.