Case against Oakland police investigator accused of perjury, bribing witness heads to trial

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There is enough evidence to send an Oakland homicide investigator to trial, an Alameda County judge ruled Wednesday.

Oakland police investigator Phong Tran faces five felony charges, including perjury and bribing a witness in a 2011 murder case.

"This case involves a decade of lying and manipulation by an Oakland police officer," Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price said. "The days when we turn a blind eye to misconduct and violations of the law are over. This case hopefully should send a message that this kind of conduct is an outlier, that it cannot be tolerated."

The allegations centers on the murder of Charles Butler, who was shot and killed during a road rage incident.

Tran is accused of paying a witness thousands of dollars to lie on the stand. The witness recanted years later.

The Alameda County DA is now reviewing more than 200 other cases involving Tran.

"We do not want police officers to solve crimes," Price said. "We will not and do not tolerate homicides, but we want witnesses to be able to come forward truthfully and unafraid."

Adante Pointer represents Giovante Douglas and Cartier Hunter, the two men who spent nearly a decade behind bars based on the false testimony before their convictions were overturned.

"My clients are very happy to see that the officer who orchestrated essentially the hell that they lived through for 10 years, a decade now being held accountable for his actions," Pointer said.

The two men are now suing Tran and the City of Oakland. The detective was formally served with the paperwork at court on Wednesday, but refused to take it.

If convicted on all criminal charges, Tran could be sentenced to just over six years in prison, Pointer said.

"I think this is a situation where he should be forced to spend at least as much time as they did away from their families snatched away from their lives and forced to deal with the nightmares of prison that would be fair," Pointer said. "Unfortunately, the law doesn't allow that."

Tran's attorney, Andrew Ganz, believes the case is hollow and is accusing Price of using press conferences to influence public opinion and dismiss murder cases in a statement saying "I must simply respect the ruling of the judge, even though this should have been the exception based on the actual evidence and law."

It is a ruling Price said should send a message to both law enforcement and the community.

"My responsibility is to ensure there is no double standard and that the community is aware if you violate the law, even if you are a police officer that you will be held accountable," Price said.

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