Almanac

News - October 13, 2010

Police search ex-editor's home

A probation-violation inquiry by officers of the Atherton Police Department, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and the county probation department led to a search for illegal drugs in the Atherton home of Brian Bothun at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, police said.

Mr. Bothun, a former editor of the Palo Alto Daily News and a former reporter for the Daily Post, is on probation in connection with a July 2008 citation by the Menlo Park Police Department for being under the influence of a controlled substance, Lt. Joe Wade of the Atherton Police Department said.

Earlier this year, Mr. Bothun pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of possession of pornography and opted to serve a jail sentence rather than accept probation, but this police visit to his home was not related to that case, Lt. Wade said.

During the search, a probation officer found "a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine," Lt. Wade said. Police turned the matter over to the county District Attorney's Office for possible prosecution on charges of possession and a probation violation.

Mr. Bothun was cooperative during the two-hour episode and was not arrested as he is the primary caregiver for someone who shares his house with him, Lt. Wade said.

Atherton police, which deployed three officers to the scene, also had the help of two county probation officers and Sheriff's Office deputies, including a drug-sniffing dog unit. Atherton is not equipped for routine drug search operations and the police force is so small that a call during a search would overstretch its resources, Lt. Wade said.

Indeed, a call came during this incident and Atherton officers had to leave, Lt. Wade said.

Asked to comment on the need for such force for a home search, Daniel Barton, a Palo Alto-based defense attorney who has represented Mr. Bothun in the past, replied: "It's very unusual for there to be a search of somebody who is on (court ordered) drug treatment. I've never seen that before, ever."

Mr. Bothun's treatment is set to expire in November, as is his probation for the 2008 incident, Mr. Barton said.

In a probation situation, police do not need a reason to conduct a search, Mr. Barton noted.

Did the search leave Mr. Bothun's home in disarray? "We always do our best to make sure the place is left as it was when we entered," Lt. Wade said.

"They seldom put things back," Mr. Barton said when asked for a comment.

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