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County Settles Dirty DUI Sting Case for $600,000

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A Bay Area county has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a lawsuit over a dirty DUI sting.

The suit, which was tentatively settled in late September, accused Contra Costa County sheriff's officer Stephen Tanabe of helping private investigator Christopher Butler set up a sting on Mitchell Katz. Katz claimed that his ex-wife had hired Butler to help her prevail in divorce proceedings.

Katz's case was consolidated with another case in which Hasan Aksu claimed he was the victim of a similar scheme by Butler and Tanabe.

Brian Gearinger, who represented the plaintiffs, said in a telephone interview that the county gave Aksu $260,000 and Katz $340,000.

"They apologized 600,000 times," he said. "That's how defendants apologize."

Gearinger said the case, which began in 2011, was the longest and most challenging that he has worked in his 25-year career. The factual circumstances of the "elaborate conspiracy" were "unique and unlikely to be duplicated," he said.

And since Tanabe had already been convicted of criminal charges directly related to the allegations in his clients' civil complaints - which claimed Fourteenth Amendment violations - Gearinger said prosecuting the civil case was unusual.

"How often is it that you are asserting a civil rights complaint against a deputy who's been convicted of exactly what you're accusing him of?" he said. "Which was to our great advantage."

Gearinger said his clients are satisfied with the settlement and are "happy to have it resolved."

"They feel that they've been fairly compensated for what they went through and are glad to have it behind them," he said. "And all the lawyers involved did their best not to inflame the situation further."

The defendants' counsel did not respond to request for comment on Friday.

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