Law Enforcement agencies in the East Bay have been rocked by a series of scandals involving allegations of threatening witnesses, making false arrests, selling evidence among other claims. However, the Mercury News is reporting that one officer may have colluded to set up one man's recent DUI arrest and conviction.
David Dutcher, a Bay Area resident was arrested and convicted of driving under the influence in 2008. His previous suspicions that he was "set-up" may now have been confirmed and those suspicions involve a conspiracy between his former wife, a too good to be true dinner-date and a now disgraced private investigator and former East Bay police officer.
Dutcher claims that his ex-wife set him up with a flirtatious dinner-date who downed Dutcher with alcohol and promises of an amorous evening before coaxing him into his car. He was soon stopped by a police officer and arrested for having a blood alcohol equivalent of .12%.
It was only after his conviction did Dutcher realize he was being spied on that evening by former PI Christopher Butler. Butler is currently at the center of a grand jury investigation for other previous DUI setups. Dutcher now contends that his ex-wife hired Butler (and his amorous date) in an orchestrated effort to smear his reputation during a child custody battle. Butler has admitted that he tipped off the police officer who arrested Dutcher, but denies any conspiracy. The ex-wife has admitted hiring Butler, but only to make sure their mutual children were not being driven by Dutcher. Dutcher's date is being described as a Las Vegas showgirl and security specialist who has previously worked on sting operations.
Dutcher is now petitioning the court to withdraw his previous plea of guilty. Penal Code section 1018 allows a person to withdraw a plea of guilty and substitute it with a plea of not guilty if good cause can be shown that the plea was not made knowingly and voluntarily and that the defendant did not fully understand all of his or her rights at the time of the guilty plea. In reality, the defendant must show mistake, ignorance, fraud, distress or some other factor that overcame the exercise of free judgment.
Although, Dutcher is a victim (one of several) there is no evidence that he did not understand his rights at the time of his plea and the following consequences. He has admitted to drinking and the subsequent driving. There is nothing to indicate that his guilty plea was anything but knowing and voluntary. Even if there was enough to retract his guilty plea, the case would not be thrown out. He would be able to re-fight the matter with the hope of getting a better deal.
However, Dutcher's case should be dismissed in the interests of justice. The surrounding circumstances have tainted the matter and the participants lack any credibility. Three other and similar cases have been thrown out. It is only fair to dismiss Dutcher's DUI.