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OAKLAND — Former Alameda County prosecutor David Hollister may have left Oakland and the infamous Riders case for more rural pastures, but on Monday he showed that neither have left him. The lanky Hollister strode confidently to the witness chair, leaned forward and eagerly recounted in detail how he came to receive and investigate the case against four cops accused of beating and framing suspects in West Oakland. Two years after the first trial, Hollister, who now works as a deputy district attorney in Plumas County, returned as a prosecution witness. Hollister was the sole prosecutor in the original trial of former Oakland police officers Clarence Mabanag, Jude Siapno and Matthew Hornung. (A fourth former officer, Frank Vasquez, is suspected of fleeing to Mexico). The trial ended in September 2003 when a jury acquitted the officers of eight charges and deadlocked on 27 more. There is a gag order in the retrial, so the attorneys involved could not comment on Hollister’s appearance. But Oakland attorney John Burris, who helped win a $10.9 million civil settlement for Riders victims, said calling Hollister to the stand is a risky but smart move. It’s a sound pre-emptive strategy, Burris said, since it allows Hollister to dispel defense team suggestions that evidence against the alleged Riders was manipulated. The risk, he said, is that prosecutors “tend to be conservative and protective of their work.” “I’m sure the defense would want him to look protective or defensive,” Burris said. The defense team has repeatedly charged that Hollister fabricated a draft internal affairs report, which was only shared with defenders midway through the first trial. Shortly after the evidence was introduced in the first trial, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Leopoldo Dorado ruled that the prosecution had not doctored nor intentionally withheld the report. Before the retrial, the defense team renewed the doctoring charge and accused Hollister of prosecutorial misconduct, but Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner saw no merit in the accusation. Hollister’s testimony Monday focused on his involvement in investigating the officers. Jurors watched intently as Hollister provided an insider’s view of the initial stages of the Riders investigation. He spoke about District Attorney Tom Orloff calling him into his office the Friday before Labor Day weekend in 2000 with the case. Hollister recounted reluctance from the Oakland Police Department’s internal affairs investigators and a Sept. 8, 2000, “draft” report that hinted at larger problems. Asked why he didn’t let the internal affairs unit lead the investigation, Hollister implied that he couldn’t. “Mr. Orloff asked me to investigate this. He didn’t ask me to be a gopher between Internal Affairs and the district attorney’s office,” he said. The tall and slightly graying former prosecutor seemed at ease and in good humor while fielding questions from prosecutor Benjamin Beltramo, who is handling the retrial with Deputy DA Terry Wiley. Hollister, however, was a bit formal. At one point, the younger-looking Beltramo asked Hollister to address him more casually. “You’re freaking me out by calling me �sir,’” Beltramo said, drawing chuckles from jurors. “I don’t know, just don’t call me �sir.’” The defense team, led by Michael Rains, did not have a chance to cross-examine Hollister on Monday, but it got in several objections to prosecution questions, most of them sustained by Horner. In one, Hollister had been asked why he thought the word “draft” was handwritten on the initial internal affairs report rather than stamped. Before Hollister’s testimony, Horner refused a defense request to ask him whether he was dissatisfied with the verdicts in the first trial. If he allowed it, Horner said, he would have to let the prosecution team ask Hollister why. “I’m not going to allow personal opinions to come into this trial,” he said. Prosecutors are expected to continue questioning Hollister today and wrap up their case this week.

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