Part One of Peter Lance’s 2011 DUI series Santa Barbara News-Press

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SBPD officer may have manipulated DUI evidence : Investigation uncovers inconsistencies, possible forgeries involving Kasi Marie Beutel 

By PETER LANCE, SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-PRESS

June 22, 2011 3:05 PM

Walk into the lobby of the Santa Barbara Police Department, turn left and you’ll discover the framed poster of a smiling female officer. Affixed with a gold star, the poster reads, “Top DUI Officer — Gold Pin Winner — Kasi Beutel.”

At the age of 38, only six years into her law enforcement career, Kasi Marie Beutel is the reigning queen of an elite group of cops who specialize in arresting drunken drivers.

Last year she was honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the consortium of a dozen county-wide law enforcement agencies known as Avoid the 12 for her self-professed record of 331 driving under the influence arrests; more than half the felony and misdemeanor DUI collars of the entire Santa Barbara Police Department and a record almost three times as great as the 111 attributed to her next closest Santa Barbara colleague, Officer Doug Klug.

On May 10, she topped her own record, winning the same two awards for 2010 with an astonishing record of 349 purported arrests, beating out 40 other police officers, sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and personnel from other state and federal agencies with a record more than 10 times the average arrest figure of the other nominees. Her winning total accounted for 21 percent of the combined 1,656 county-wide DUI arrests last year cited at the MADD and Avoid the 12 awards presentation.

A former accountant and mother of three who enrolled in the police academy in 2005, Kasi Beutel has amassed an impressive statistical record. In accepting the 2009 award at ceremonies in Buellton, she told the media that more than half of her arrests were for .15 blood alcohol content, which is almost twice the legal limit of .08 percent.

Last year, from a pool of 100 applicants, she was chosen one of eight winners of Project Transformation, a physical makeover program worth $11,000 conducted at the California Health and Longevity Institute located at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, just a 15-minute drive from her home in Newbury Park, in Ventura County.

“I’m not like most women,” she told a local newspaper. “I don’t just need to make it through an aerobics class. I want to be able to chase down a motivated 25-year-old suspect who’s running from me.”

One press handout for Project Transformation described Officer Beutel as “similar in many ways to a comic book superhero. By day she is a soccer mom. . .By night, she guards the community in the role of police officer.”

But after a nearly six-month investigation into Kasi Beutel’s methods and investigative tactics from 2009 to 2010, as well as into her background in the years leading up to her work as a Santa Barbara police officer, this special News-Press investigation has uncovered evidence that not only raises serious questions about her credibility, but suggests that in some cases she may have effectively framed innocent drivers who were alleged to have blood alcohol levels close to the .08 legal limit.

Among the revelations:

• Officer Beutel overstated the actual number of DUI arrests she made in 2009 that led to the MADD and Avoid the 12 awards. And in nominating her for the 2010 awards which she accepted, the Santa Barbara Police Department over-reported her actual number of DUI arrests by almost 15 percent.

• In multiple arrests in 2009 and 2010, she made a number of material misstatements of fact in police reports, and in at least two of her cases in 2009 that led to convictions, exculpatory evidence was withheld from arrestees who were later found guilty.

• In two other cases, a nationally ranked handwriting expert who examined the files has sworn under penalty of perjury that the signatures of arrestees who purportedly waived blood tests witnessed by Officer Beutel were forged.

• There is evidence that before becoming a police officer, Kasi Beutel committed fraud in a 2000 Chapter 7 bankruptcy by holding onto a $270,000 home in Agoura Hills under the Homestead Exemption, at a time, she later claimed, she was living in a townhouse just blocks away with then-husband Todd. A certified public accountant, Todd Beutel had filed a similar Chapter 7 bankruptcy 19 months earlier, claiming that the townhouse was his sole property and thus exempt from creditors.

• The total credit card debt between the two, wiped out by their back-to-back bankruptcy filings, amounted to almost $200,000 and included 24 credit cards between them.

• Then, during divorce proceedings in 2005, Kasi Beutel may have committed perjury when she claimed that her 1997 marriage to Todd, (which she’d previously sworn to) actually took place on January 15, 1999, two days after his bankruptcy was discharged.

• On April 24, 2000, just prior to filing her Chapter 7 petition, Citi Financial Inc. entered a default judgment against Kasi Beutel under her maiden name, Kasi M. Moore, in Van Nuys Municipal Court. While the amount of the actual judgment was not listed in her petition, Kasi Beutel listed three separate debts to Citi-related entities totaling $16,562.00.

The application to become a Santa Barbara police officer lists “lack of well balanced credit” among “Potential Reasons for Rejection.” At this point, for reasons explained below, it’s unclear whether Kasi Beutel disclosed her troubled credit history in her application to the department in 2005.

Comparing her DUI arrest stats to other officers

Until recently, Officer Beutel was the principal officer assigned to the Santa Barbara Police Department’s Drinking Driver Team, a position that accounted, in part, for her success, according to Senior Deputy Jeff Farmer of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, who spoke to reporters at the MADD and Avoid the 12 awards ceremony May 10.

“That’s all she (Beutel) does,” said Deputy Farmer. “Just works DUIs. Works nights. So as long as she’s working, she’ll get the DUI (arrest).”

To prevent burnout in the job, according to Deputy Farmer, the Santa Barbara Police Department rotates the DDT officers every two years. But by any measure, Kasi Beutel’s arrest statistics are unparalleled.

According to data supplied by the department, the previous DDT Officer Christine Ortega had 164 DUI arrests in 2007 and 96 in 2008. Prior to that, the officer with the highest reported arrests was Mark Corbett, who preceded Officer Ortega on the Drinking Driving Team.

In 2004, Officer Corbett put the handcuffs on 257 DUI arrestees — a benchmark that might make for some interesting talk at the breakfast table, because in early May, he and Officer Beutel were scheduled to be married. And as we’ll see in this series, he’s been present on the scene of at least two of her most questionable arrests.

In one case from August 2009, Officer Beutel Tasered a man she’d pulled over for a DUI stop; a driver later proven to have a blood alcohol content below the legal limit.

In another case, five months earlier, after an initial breath test failed for a female suspect Officer Beutel pulled over in downtown Santa Barbara, she arrested the woman, handcuffed her, locked her in her patrol unit and drove her to a second location where she allegedly coerced the young woman into taking a second breath test on a different device — with Officer Corbett’s help. This second test, 25 minutes later, produced results which appeared to confirm Officer Beutel’s initial conclusion that the young woman was driving under the influence.

The credibility of officers is key in DUI cases

“When it comes to the drunk-driving laws, the credibility of the arresting officer is central to a conviction,” says Mary Frances Prevost, a San Diego-based criminal lawyer who helped expose Officer Thomas Broxtermann, a San Diego Police Department DUI cop and MADD award winner who had been removed from a DUI enforcement task force for “falsifying police reports of DUI stops,” only to return to the job apprehending other DUI suspects.

“Credibility is usually the deciding factor,” says Felix D’Amico a 33-year veteran of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department who observed more than 5,000 DUI cases in his career. “That’s because in a DUI stop, a certified officer like Kasi Beutel can literally arrest a suspect on the basis of whether or not she asserts that they failed a field sobriety test. So at trial, it often comes down to her word versus the word of the accused and in 99.9 percent of the cases, judges favor the police.”

“No judge ever got thrown off the bench by being too tough on a DUI case,” says Darryl Genis, the veteran Santa Barbara defense attorney representing me, who has tried a number of cases with Officer Beutel as the principal prosecution witness.

“You’ve got a perfect storm of potential abuse,” says Mr. Genis. “First of all, the (Drager) Alcotest 7410 breathalyzer used by the Santa Barbara Police Department can be manipulated to enhance BAC readings. An officer who knows how to cover the exit port can take a .04 BAC, which is half the legal limit and make it appear in an official printout to be a .09 or more, thereby framing a subject. Second, Santa Barbara is the only major department in Avoid the 12 without video in the cars to ensure that field sobriety tests are properly conducted. Add to that, the incentive for a cop like Kasi Beutel to push suspects who are close to the .08 level over the line for career advancement, awards and, most importantly, overtime.”

“An officer can easily double their base salary with the overtime that comes from DUI work,” says Mr. D’Amico, the former sheriff’s sergeant.

“These guys pick up so much overtime,” adds Ms. Prevost, “because they’re being called into court for motions, suppression hearings and trials.”

“You work the graveyard shift, like Beutel,” says Mr. D’Amico, “and if there’s a trial or hearing scheduled the next day, you’re on time and a half. And if you schedule your days off in the middle of the week, you’re on the clock from the time you leave your house until you finish in court which can mean 10, 15, 20 hours of overtime in a week, till you’re back on the clock again.”

“Now take Kasi Beutel,” says Mr. Genis, “who got an award for an average of 29 arrests a month last year. If even 10 percent of her cases go to court or the DMV, she’s golden.”

The numbers behind Kasi Beutel’s DUI arrests

This investigation uncovered some alarming questions about the actual number of arrests that the Santa Barbara Police Department reported for Kasi Beutel between 2009 and 2010.

In response to a request for her statistics filed under the California Public Records Act, the News-Press obtained printouts showing that she made 315 arrests in 2009, compared to the 331 for which she nominated herself resulting in the 2009 MADD award.

The discrepancy in the reporting of her 2010 arrests was more significant. In fact, the department-provided printout that included the date and time of each DUI arrest and the specific Vehicle Code violation, showed that Officer Beutel had actually made 299 arrests — 50 fewer than she was cited for by MADD and Avoid the 12.

But those conflicts pale when one studies the actual Officer Beutel DUI arrest printouts in detail.

Analyzed in conjunction with the DUI round-up, a detailed summary of drunk driving arrests released by the department, they show a repeated pattern of inconsistencies in Officer Beutel’s DUI arrests. For example, on March 20, 2010, Office Beutel made three DUI arrests. The official printout puts the times at 1:55 a.m., 2:18 a.m. and 8:40 p.m.

The first two incidents were only 23 minutes apart, a period that defies the typical length of time required for a legal DUI stop, field sobriety test, breath test and arrest. “It averages about 90 minutes from stop to jail,” says Mr. D’Amico, “and if you add a blood test, that could mean another half hour.”

The DUI round-up for that same night also lists three arrests by Officer Beutel, with slightly different arrest times — the first two, only eight minutes apart.

“On 3/20 at 1:42 a.m., Officer Beutel stopped (a 38-year-old) in his large white pickup, at 100 W. Cota Street for running stop signs, crossing into the opposing traffic lane, and weaving. (The man) was arrested for DUI.”

“On 3/20 at 1:50 a.m., Officer Beutel responded to 500 E. Anapamu Street on a vehicle collision. (An 18-year-old) had crashed the family van through a fence, down an embankment, and onto the basketball courts of Santa Barbara High School. (He) was arrested for DUI.”

On June 13, 2010 the printout and DUI Round-up are in agreement about the two arrests by Officer Beutel, but this time, they’re only three minutes apart: “On 6/13 at 2:21 a.m., Officer Beutel stopped (a 21-year-old) at 300 State Street, in his 1996 Pontiac Grand Am, for weaving over the center line and running a stop sign. (He) was arrested for DUI, unlicensed driver, no insurance, and driving with an open container of alcohol.

“On 6/13 at 2:24 a.m., Officer Beutel responded to 1400 block of Chino Street on a call of a hit-and-run collision. A taxi driver reported that he was sitting in his parked cab when a 2004 Toyota Corolla with a flat tire came thumping down the street toward him. . . . Officer Beutel arrested the driver . . . age 21, for DUI, hit-and-run, and possession of marijuana while driving.”

Thirty-six DUI arrests in one month

According to the Santa Barbara Police Department printout, between June 3, 2010, and July 4, 2010, Kasi Beutel made 36 DUI arrests, prompting this comment on a local blog: “Officer Beutel . . . probably deserves a ‘spa day’ more than any other woman in Santa Barbara.”

“Three hundred and forty-nine arrests in one calendar year is an extraordinary number,” says former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Felix D’Amico. “You have to consider that with vacations, training days and sick leave, an officer has probably 215 actual working days in a year. Add to that, my experience that for every 100 stops we did on saturation DUI patrol we got 16 to 18 arrests. Even if she’s just sitting on bars, waiting for possible suspects, for this officer to make 349 good DUI collars, she’d have had to have made thousands of stops in the course of that year; a figure that strains belief.”

According to both the Santa Barbara Police Department printout and the DUI round-up details supplied by the department, on August 22, 2010, Officer Beutel made four arrests. The problem is two of the arrests took place in different locations at the same time:

“On 8/22 at 12:40 a.m., Officer Beutel stopped (a 24-year-old) in his 1994 Mitsubishi, at 1100 San Andres Street, for speeding, weaving, and for driving over the center line. (He) was arrested for DUI and unlicensed driver; he provided a breath sample of .15 BAC.”

“On 8/22 at 12:40 a.m., Officer Gaston stopped (a 54-year-old) in his 2001 Acura Integra at 800 Santa Barbara Street for expired registration. Officer Beutel arrived to assist and arrested (the man) for DUI. He provided a breath sample of .09 BAC.”

“Something is clearly wrong here,” says attorney Darryl Genis. “Either she’s not making all the arrests she’s taking credit for and piggybacking on other officers, or the department is cooking the books on her DUI arrest stats — either way it’s a problem that goes directly to Kasi Beutel’s credibility because she’s embraced these statistics as truthful.”

Protected by the D.A. and a judge

In recent weeks, scandals have erupted involving two alleged “dirty DUI cops” in California and North Carolina. The cases, in which Officer Brandon Mullock in Sacramento and Barry Grimes in Charlotte, N.C., were found to have lied, have now jeopardized hundreds of DUI cases in both jurisdictions.

We’ll have more on those cases later in this series. But as noted, the credibility of a DUI officer is crucial to convictions and in the course of my defense and this independent investigation for the News-Press, the evidence I’ve uncovered underscores the lengths that both the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and a senior Superior Court judge have gone to protecting the reputation and credibility of Officer Beutel.

On April 22, in the case of the People vs. Peter Lance, we had what is known as a Section 1054 discovery hearing in Dept. 12 of Santa Barbara County Superior Court. It was presided over by Judge George C. Eskin, a veteran jurist whose reputation for thoughtful rulings is underscored by the two ceramic owls he keeps on the edge of his bench.

“Given that Kasi’s credibility would be crucial at trial,” says my lawyer, Darryl Genis, “the only way we could properly impeach her would be to explore various statements we knew she had made.”

Mr. Genis wanted to put the officer on the stand at this hearing to answer under oath not only the basis for the 331-arrest-figure for which she won the award in 2009, but for something she apparently told a North County publication: “I am a patrol officer first, and try to give people respect and education. I offer breathalyzer tests to people when they leave the bars downtown, most usually resist and get in their cars anyway. Then I have to pull them over later for driving under the influence.”

“Think about the truthfulness of that statement,” says Mr. Genis. “From Parking Lot No. 12 on Gutierrez Street to The Granada Garage 10 blocks north, there are a dozen parking lots or structures in the State Street bar corridor. If Kasi Beutel is in uniform offering breath tests to exiting bar patrons, nobody who refuses is going to let her follow them to their car. That means you’d have to involve a dozen undercover officers who would follow these people. Even then, if they saw these suspects getting into their vehicles, Kasi wouldn’t have a reasonable suspicion to stop them, because it’s not illegal to exit a bar and get behind the wheel.”

But when Mr. Genis tried to question Officer Beutel, who was present at the April 22 hearing, to confirm the quote and whether she had made the 331 arrests that got her the award, Deputy District Attorney Sanford Horowitz objected and Judge Eskin denied the request.

What follows is a section of the hearing transcript:.

Judge Eskin: I don’t think Officer Beutel is the witness to be called.

Mr. Horowitz: I don’t either.

Mr. Genis: Your Honor, she’s the person who supposedly made these arrests.

Judge Eskin: According to whom?

Mr. Genis: Until I put her on the stand, I don’t know.

Judge Eskin: You’re fishing. You’re fishing.

Mr. Genis: No. I’m absolutely not. I am attempting to prevent a situation where Officer Beutel attempts to get on the stand and says whatever she wants and I can’t cross-examine her about it . . . My question to you is, would Officer Beutel accept the 2009 MADD Award for 331 arrests if she knew that she had not made that number of arrests? . . .And if your answer to that is that she wouldn’t . . . then why wouldn’t you let me put her on the stand to ask her if she made 331 arrests in 2009 under oath?

Judge Eskin: I think it’s irrelevant . . . And all I’m involved in is the prosecution of a case involving a .09 blood alcohol level and I’m going to try and control it. I haven’t done a good job as I said. But I’m not going to let this court be used as a vehicle for Mr. Lance to pursue his agenda.

Mr. Genis: I don’t think you’re . . .

Judge Eskin: His agenda in this courtroom is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that “I was not under the influence of alcohol.” That’s his agenda. And it should be your agenda. Not the attempt to destroy the career of Officer Kasi Beutel.

Mr. Genis: I’m not trying to destroy anybody’s career.

Judge Eskin: Nobody could read these pleadings and not come to that conclusion . . . You have not made one, provided me with one scintilla of evidence, that Kasi Beutel went around telling people that, “I made 331 arrests last year.” Not one piece of evidence. Not one fact.

The judge denied our request to put Kasi Beutel on the stand under oath to determine whether she was the source of the figure of 331 arrests in 2009.

Then, four days later, we got the answer, not via the court and the discovery process, but pursuant to the California Public Records Act. On April 26, the Santa Barbara Police Department turned over an email dated January 5, 2010, from Kasi Beutel to Win Smith of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department in response to an earlier request from Deputy Smith for MADD and Avoid the 12 nominations. In it, she wrote:

From: Beutel, Kasi

Sent: Tuesday, January 05, 2010 11:59 AM

To: Smith, Win

Subject: RE: Winter DUI Enforcement Campaign Win,

Stats for the annual MADD Awards for 2009

Officer Klug — 111

Officer Beutel — 331

Have a great day!

Thanks,

Kasi

“So the court was accusing my client of having some kind of agenda,” says Mr. Genis, “steadfastly protecting this officer and refusing to let her get into a situation where she might be committing perjury, and now we had it via a public records request: she was the one who claimed she’d made the 331 arrests. Nobody else. Kasi Beutel. And now that we have the additional printout via that same law, we can prove that she lied: she over estimated her 2009 stats by 16 and the department lied by overestimating her 2010 DUI arrests by 50.”

“You have to appreciate the significance of this in terms of the dozens and dozens of people who have been convicted of a DUI offense or pled guilty largely on the credibility of this officer,” adds Mr. Genis. “She’s the DUI star. The Gold Pin Winner. If she is willing to lie about her own arrest statistics, what else is she willing to lie about relating to those cases? The underlying facts, perhaps? The breath results perhaps?”

I contacted Brenda Frachiseur, the assistant state executive director for MADD, to ask her whether she thought the overstatement by Officer Beutel of her DUI arrest statistics reflected negatively on MADD.

“I believe that it hurts the police officers, or the police agencies or law enforcement agencies that provide us with those statistics,” Ms. Frachiseur said.

In early March, we filed a motion asking Judge Eskin to review Kasi Beutel’s application to the Police Department (among other aspects of her department file). We wanted to see if she had been honest about disclosing her bankruptcy and credit problems. But the Santa Barbara City Attorney vehemently opposed our motion and Judge Eskin declined to review the application in her file.

Asking that a judge recuse himself for bias

On May 13, I filed a declaration under Section 170.1 of the California Code of Civil Procedure asking that Judge Eskin either recuse himself from my case for prejudice and bias toward Officer Beutel or that, if he refused, he be removed.

Less than three hours after the filing, while denying any prejudice or bias, Judge Eskin removed himself from the case.

Then, on May 27, I sent Kasi Beutel an email describing my findings in general and requesting an interview to get her response. While she didn’t get back to me — and still had not by press time — she did answer a series of questions put to her by News-Press Correspondent Catherine Shen, who covered the May 10 MADD awards presentation.

In response to a question about her unparalleled DUI arrest record, Officer Beutel stated, “A large portion of my success can be attributed to the Santa Barbara Police Department and its aggressive approach to public safety. We employ a dedicated DUI enforcement car that is utilized on the busiest days and at the busiest times. It is with the assistance of the public and the patrol officers, I was able to apprehend and arrest so many DUI drivers. . . I very much approach most DUI arrests as an intervention of sorts.”

There’s little doubt that Officer Kasi Beutel has intervened in the lives of hundreds of drivers in Santa Barbara, many of whom came away with indelible marks on their driving records or worse. A number of her arrestees who pled guilty or no contest ended up on house arrest. One of them is a lifelong Santa Barbara resident and commercial fisherman who began wearing an electronic monitoring device on May 26.

His encounter with Officer Beutel in August 2009 began with a routine traffic stop and ended up with him getting shot with two projectiles in his chest that pierced his skin after the officer fired her Taser at him at point blank range. We’ll have his story Thursday in Part Two.

2 Responses to Part One of Peter Lance’s 2011 DUI series Santa Barbara News-Press

  1. Michael Reply

    August 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    This is not new. There are others, some female officers that are falsely arresting people. When an officer does this they need to be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Peoples lives are not only disrupted but many marriages are destroyed because of these arrests. People lose their jobs and respect. All because of a police officer that has been told our constitution no longer exists.

    • Peter Lance Reply

      August 25, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      Michael, I couldn’t agree with you more about the cost in human terms of a DUI arrest and if, as I found in Santa Barbara, officers like Kasi Beutel are framing innocent drivers for crimes they did not commit and the Police Department and City administration continue to protect them, that is repugnant. Keep pushing for the truth. Best, P.L.

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