Bothun charges dismissed | January 26, 2011 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - January 26, 2011

Bothun charges dismissed

by Renee Batti

The probation violation charge that resulted from the search of journalist Brian Bothun's Atherton home last October was dismissed in court on Monday, Jan. 24.

The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office had determined that there was "no reasonable likeliness" that the .01 gram of a drug found in a plastic bag in Mr. Bothun's closet during the search would lead to a conviction, said Mr. Bothun's attorney, Dan Barton of Palo Alto.

The trace of the controlled substance "was residue," Mr. Barton said, adding that the search turned up no drug paraphernalia and no evidence of current use.

Mr. Bothun was near the end of an 18-month probation period for a misdemeanor drug conviction when county probation officers with a police dog and three Atherton police officers descended on his home, searching his computer and iPhone as well as the house itself.

Mr. Barton and a number of Atherton residents have criticized the search, citing the number of officers present and the use of a dog, as well as the scale of the search. "This was for a misdemeanor drug conviction," Mr. Barton said.

He said he believed the police action was "part of a vendetta against Brian for his work as a journalist ... for exposing (the wrongdoing) of a police chief" — a reference to Mr. Bothun's work as a local reporter in revealing that then-Police Chief Steve Cader voted illegally in an Atherton election. Mr. Cader was ultimately charged with voter fraud, and left the department under a cloud.

Atherton Police Chief Mike Guerra responded that his department didn't initiate the search, but assisted in it at the request of the probation department.

Mr. Bothun's probation ended Nov. 28 after he completed drug treatment; his arrest and conviction have been wiped from his record, Mr. Barton said.


Like this comment
Posted by Joseph Pulitzer
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm

This should have never been referred to the DA's office in the first place. Any cop worth his salt knows residue doesn't constitute "usable amount." [Portion removed. Terms of use.]

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 1, 2011 at 6:57 pm

OK Editor, hows this; this was a COWARDLY act by a bunch of thugs.

This wasn't about law enforcement. This was about pay back.

If I had booked someone for possession with that quantity of dope, I would have been laughed at by any cop that was worth a damn.

Of course, we are talking about APD here, nothing more than a glorified private security force, so I guess it's par for their department.

Like this comment
Posted by Revenge is a dish best served cold
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 1, 2011 at 10:32 pm

I'm with Menlo Voter. This was a childish vendetta (in some sense literally; the Atherton sergeant who led the raid is a childhood schoolmate of Bothun's). What's more is that the chief, Guerra, allowed it to take place even in the midst of all the current bad publicity about the APD. That's really bad judgment on his part.

My favorite APD line, from this week's Almanac: "Investigator concludes police followed department's standards despite adding false charge to arrest report." That says it all, and the sad thing is, the investigator was right!

Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2011 at 8:15 am

Revenge is right. Childish vendettas run rampant in the Atherton Police Department.

I have personal experience in this issue. Glenn Nielsen watched from a distance of about ten yards, with what appeared to be considerable satisfaction, as I was illegally detained by four of "Atherton's Finest" on the morning of August 29th.

Nielsen was a classmate of mine at McKinley Jr. High School in 1971 and 1972.

Nielsen was also the one whom I alerted to the fact that his boss Bob Brennan had misspent public funds attending a conference out of state without the necessary city council approval. This is the incident which precipitated the "hostile work environment" complaint against me by Chief Brennan.

As an aside, I've always wondered, since when was requiring the Police Chief to obey the law constitute illegal discrimination?