Part Three of Peter Lance’s 2011 News-Press DUI series

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Forger claims focus on DUI blood-test waivers

By PETER LANCE SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-PRESS

By the light of a video crew doing a segment for the Santa Barbara Police Department’s “On Patrol” TV series, Officer Kasi Beutel uses the proper technique – holding the device at midsection – to administer an alcohol screening with an Alcotest 7410 Plus. Tests show blocking the exit port of the 7410′s mouthpiece can affect the results.
SANTA BARBARA POLICE DEPARTMENT
Peter Lance says he signed the Notice to Appear, above, but claims someone forged a signature purporting to be his on a document waiving his right to submit to a DUI-related blood test, the so-called ‘Trombetta waiver,’ below. A handwriting expert who examined the documents and others known to bear the signatures of Mr. Lance said the waiver signature was forged.
Handwriting expert James Blanco examined the Notice to Appear signed by Alison Woolery, above, and other documents known to bear her signature and upon comparing those documents to the blood-test waiver below, called the signature on the waiver a forgery.

June 24, 2011 5:40 AM

Third of five parts.

Alison Woolery, a 26-year-old UCSB graduate whose best friend was killed by an impaired driver when Ms. Woolery was a young girl, saw her plans of becoming a nurse shattered after she was arrested by Santa Barbara Police Department Officer Kasi Beutel on suspicion of DUI.

Right after the stop, Ms. Woolery asked Officer Beutel if she could take a blood test, but the decorated DUI officer, a star of the department’s Drinking Driver Team and recipient of Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Gold Pin for her DUI arrest record, reportedly told Ms. Woolery that wasn’t “an option.”

Then, when an initial breath test administered by Officer Beutel produced results that made Ms. Woolery’s conviction doubtful, the officer handcuffed Ms. Woolery, locked her in the back of her patrol unit and took her to another location where she allegedly coerced her into taking a second set of breath tests that led to a guilty plea.

The case of the People vs. Alison Woolery is one of the most extreme examples, uncovered in this five-month investigation of just how far Kasi Beutel is willing to push a suspect to get proof of a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.

But it has even more disturbing implications.

When Ms. Woolery was finally able to study her police report in detail, she noticed something wasn’t quite right. While the Notice to Appear — the ticket she signed and stamped with her thumbprint — was in the file, she also came across a form that she had never signed. It was a waiver giving up her right to the very blood test that Ms. Woolery asked Officer Beutel for after her arrest on March 13, 2009.

A nationally ranked handwriting expert who analyzed Ms. Woolery’s purported signature on that waiver in the course of this investigation, has concluded it was a forgery.

The signature was reportedly witnessed by Officer Mark Corbett, the former head of the Drinking Driver Team whose wedding to Officer Beutel was scheduled for May 1. To make matters worse, two additional blood waivers examined by the same expert in this investigation were found to contain forged signatures. Both were witnessed by Officer Kasi Beutel.

“The right of a DUI suspect to take a test that saves a sample to measure their BAC is the only safeguard a suspect has after a DUI stop where there is no video evidence from the stop,” says defense attorney Darryl Genis who is representing me in a DUI case stemming from a stop by Office Beutel. “The reason is that the Alcotest 7410 Plus breathalyzer used by the Santa Barbara Police Department is so vulnerable to manipulation by an officer in the field, that the only independent proof an arrestee may have is a blood or urine test where the sample can be preserved and re-tested by the defense. As to video, the SBPD voluntarily removed all such units from their patrol cars years ago.”

Manipulation of the Alcotest 7410 plus Breathalyzer

On March 1, 2006, the California attorney general issued a bulletin to chiefs of police, sheriffs, the California Highway Patrol and district attorneys statewide warning that “Blocking the exit port of the mouthpiece” on the 7410 Plus “can affect the readings of a subject’s breath alcohol concentration.”

Mr. Genis recently served a subpoena on Drager Safety Inc., the manufacture of the Alcotest 7410 Plus, to obtain the source codes for the devices. He also shot a video, accessible on YouTube in which he demonstrates how covering the exit port on the device and restricting the breath from escaping, can turn a purported BAC of .04 (below the .08 legal limit in California) into a .09 and higher.

“This police unit has the potential to be manipulated to falsely convict innocent people, which is why you should never, ever take a breath test if you are over 21,” Mr. Genis says in the video. “Alison Woolery was extremely smart to ask for a blood test,” he adds. “The problem was, she had no idea what she was about to encounter when she got pulled over by Kasi Beutel.”

Proof that the unit can be manipulated to enhance BAC levels doesn’t just come from a defense attorney like Darryl Genis. John Yount, a 29-year veteran criminalist with the California Department of Justice, testified under oath in a Sonoma County Superior Court trial in December 2009 that he had boosted BAC levels by manipulating a 7410 Plus.

After first agreeing that “blocking the exit port of the instrument can affect the readings of the subject’s breath alcohol concentration,” Mr. Yount went on to describe how he personally tested a 7410 Plus; measuring alcohol concentrations before and after blocking the exit port. Starting with a BAC of .07, which is below the legal limit in California, Mr. Yount testified that “by various techniques of blocking, I was able to get as high as .09.”

“And that’s just enough for a cop like Kasi Beutel, with a motive to enhance her arrest stats, to push innocent drivers over the line,” says Mr. Genis, “effectively framing them.”

Officer Beutel’s account of the arrest

A detailed analysis of the police report in Alison Woolery’s case as well as a handwritten account of the events she made shortly after the arrest illustrate how Officer Beutel was willing to put Alison Woolery in handcuffs and take her to a second location, where Officer Corbett was present, in order to get a second breath test with a BAC level that would make the DUI conviction more certain.

“On 3/13/09 at approximately 0133 hours I was on uniformed patrol driving a marked black and white patrol vehicle Northbound in the 600 block of Chapala Street. I observed a Silver Jetta VW northbound in the same block. The vehicle was in the right most lane. I was driving behind the vehicle and noted that the vehicle was weaving within its lane for several blocks. . . I conducted a traffic stop immediately.

“Woolery had one passenger in the vehicle. I could smell an odor of alcoholic intoxicant coming from her person. Woolery stated she had one beer earlier in the evening. I did a cursory check for nystagmus which was present. I had Woolery step out of the vehicle and onto the sidewalk. . .I asked Woolery if she would voluntarily provide a (preliminary alcohol screening) sample. Woolery refused. I asked why she did not want to provide a sample; she stated she had a right to refuse, so she was going to.”

Later in the report Officer Beutel admitted that, “Woolery chose to take a blood test.” But before that point in time, Officer Beutel asked her if she would take a PAS test. “I told her that it would not affect my decision at this time. She voluntarily consented to a PAS test and at 0146 hours on PAS # 010717. . .her BAC was .142.”

“It’s significant,” says the lawyer Mr. Genis, “that in this PAS screening, the breath testing device Beutel used was an Alco-Sensor IV, manufactured by a company called Intoximeters Inc. This device is much harder to manipulate than the Alcotest 7410 Plus.”

And according to Ms. Woolery, the BAC of .142 wasn’t the first reading Officer Beutel got from her. In an interview for this piece, Ms. Woolery insisted that her first blow on the Alco-Sensor produced a BAC of .09.

At that point, says Ms. Woolery, Officer Beutel demanded that she blow again. “She kept yelling at me, ‘Blow harder, blow harder, blow harder! Only after the second blow did I hear her tell another male officer who had arrived at the scene that the result was a .142.”

Blowing harder produces higher BAC levels

In interviews with a half dozen people Kasi Beutel arrested on suspicion of DUI, they each described a similar pattern. During breath tests administered by Officer Beutel, as they blew, she yelled at them with the identical words, “Blow harder, blow harder!”

“That’s significant,” says Dr. Michael P. Hlastala, professor emeritus of Physiology and Biophysics and of Medicine at the University of Washington, who has written extensively on the validity of breath-test results.

“As a potential DUI arrestee blows into the device, the longer and harder they blow will increase the BAC content by up to 40 percent depending on how long and how hard the police officer admonishes them to blow. An officer experienced in this area can easily elevate a BAC of .07 to a .11 by demanding that the subject blow harder.”

But while Officer Beutel got a reading of .142 from Alison Woolery, nearly twice the legal limit, she had a problem: The first reading was a .09 and by California law, to be admissible against a defendant, breath-test readings must be within .02 of each other.

“So in this instance, after the initial PAS screening,” says defense attorney Mr. Genis, “if Officer Beutel wanted to ensure a conviction for this young woman, she’d have to convince her to blow again on a different machine.”

What happened next during the stop of Ms. Woolery was memorialized in a statement she wrote by hand the next day: “(Beutel) informed me that she was detaining me for driving under the influence but was not arresting me. She then handcuffed me and put me in the back of her car. I said, ‘I thought you said you weren’t arresting me,’ She replied, ‘When did I say that?’ As she began driving, I asked where we were going. She told me we were going to the sobering center where I would get a blood test.”

But instead of turning right on Carrillo Street from Chapala and taking Ms. Woolery to the center which is located in the New Faulding Hotel on Haley Street, Officer Beutel took a left at Carrillo and headed onto Highway 101 northbound. She got off at Las Positas Road and ended up in the parking lot opposite Gelson’s.

By Ms. Woolery’s account “there were three or more police cars surrounding a truck. (Beutel) got out and rolled down the windows in the car and told me I could wait 45 minutes to an hour or call a ride. I asked what happens after the 45 minutes and she answered that she would have to take me to sober up.”

‘She coerced me’ into second set of breath tests

At this point, Ms. Woolery told me in an interview, “It was after 2 in the morning and I was exhausted. I’d been locked in the back of her patrol car for I don’t know how long. So when she informed me of another ‘option,’ as she put it, I agreed. The option was that if I took a second set of breath tests and blew into a different machine she would release me and let somebody pick me up to go home. At that point, short of jail, a blood test wasn’t on the table, so I went along. But there’s no doubt in my mind that she coerced me into taking this second set of tests.”

According to the police report, this time when Officer Beutel had Ms. Woolery blow into an Alcotest 7410 Plus, the readings were .14 and .13. At that point a male police officer finished Ms. Woolery’s paperwork and she was released. Four months later, unable to afford an attorney and with no blood sample that could be tested again, it was her word against Officer Kasi Beutel and the Alcotest 7410 Plus.

“And here’s what’s so troubling,” says Darryl Genis. “The printout from that first PAS test that failed would have been exculpatory and helpful to Alison’s defense, but it was missing from her police file. Another example, like the missing minutes from the audio recording in the case of Michael Kenny, of how evidence seems to disappear.” (For Mr. Kenny’s story, see Part Two of this series in Thursday’s News-Press.)

Eventually, Ms. Woolery’s court-appointed lawyer let her plead guilty to a full DUI. She had to pay more than $3,200 in fines and costs, but she ended up paying an even bigger price.

Losing her dream of nursing school

“When I was 8,” says Ms. Woolery, “my closest friend was killed by a woman who was driving under the influence of prescription drugs. This left a mark on me for life and as a result, I have always been incredibly careful before getting behind the wheel if I’ve had a drink. At the time of my friend’s death, I got a lot of comfort from a hospice, so when I applied to nursing school at Cal State and they required 100 hours of community service, rather than working at a hospital, I decided to work with those near the end of life. It was an intense six-week training program and at the end of it they did a background check. At that point, the DUI was on my record, although I hadn’t been convicted of it yet. But they denied my volunteering work and that ended my goal of being a nurse.”

Was she guilty?

The question is, when Kasi Beutel pulled Alison Woolery over on the night of March 13, 2009, was Ms. Woolery actually under the influence or was she framed? The only way she would have an independent measure of the true alcohol content in her blood would have been by taking the blood test. And when she finally got a chance to examine her police file, she was shocked to find a document stating that she had waived the blood test. It bore a signature resembling her own, but she was sure it wasn’t genuine.

“I was so intent on getting a blood test that night, I would never have waived that option,” Ms. Woolery said. The document known as a “Trombetta advisement” or waiver, is required by law to be presented to every DUI suspect who submits to a breath test, so that they can affirmatively waive their right to a more accurate re-testable blood or urine sample.

“It’s named for an historic appellate case,” says Mr. Genis. That case, People vs. Trombetta, resulted from a DUI arrestee who had blown into an old Intoxalyzer device in the early 1980s — “another breath device, like the Alcotest 7410 Plus, that was also subject to manipulation,” says Mr. Genis.

“So in order to protect the rights of suspects in these cases, which always come down to the cops’ word against yours, a Trombetta advisement or signed waiver is mandatory.”

In Ms. Woolery’s case, the purported waiver was witnessed by Officer Mark Corbett, the man who would later become Kasi Beutel’s fiancè.

Evidence of three forged waivers

As part of this investigation, I ran a newspaper ad with a picture of Officer Kasi Beutel and a request for information from any of her arrestees who might have found misstatements of fact in their police reports regarding the DUI “stop, breath, blood test or arrest.”

I ran the ad because after looking at the blood waiver in my own police report, I was certain that I hadn’t signed it. Yet my so-called “signature” was witnessed by Officer Beutel.

A number of Officer Beutel’s arrestees responded to the ad, including Ms. Woolery and a 19-year-old City College student arrested in another Chapala Street stop, this one, early on the morning of New Year’s Eve 2009.

This young man, whom I’ll call “Jack Smith,” told me that Officer Beutel had outright lied about her probable cause for his stop. “She pulled me over at the corner of Chapala and Haley,” he said. “I had stopped because two people were crossing the street. First she told me that I hadn’t stopped at the stop sign, but when the two witnesses in my car pointed to the pedestrians, she changed her story and said that I’d failed to use my blinker, which was also a lie.”

After subjecting “Jack Smith” to a field sobriety test and inducing him to take a breath test, never mentioning the option of allowing him to draw blood, Officer Beutel allegedly had him blow twice, also yelling that he should “Blow harder,” as she held the Alcotest 7410 Plus.

Officer Beutel had used the identical protocol in my case when she arrested me early on the morning of New Year’s Day 2011. She never even hinted that a blood test was an option and after threatening to take me to jail, told me that if I blew, she’d release me to the same sobering center she had offered as an “option” for Alison Woolery.

According to a printout from the Alcotest 7410 Plus, my breath results showed a BAC of .09 and .09, a hundredth of a percent above the .08 legal limit.

Police reports with evidence of three forged waivers

The Trombetta waiver, which I didn’t sign, was “witnessed” by Officer Beutel, who also witnessed the waiver that showed up in “Jack Smith’s” file; a document he, too, insists was forged.

On May 24, I retained James Blanco a handwriting expert who formerly worked for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department detective division, the U.S. Treasury Department and the California Department of Justice. He’s the exclusive forensic document expert used by the California Secretary of State’s Office in voting fraud cases.

Mr. Blanco asked me to send him copies of the Notice to Appear in each of the three cases — documents that Ms. Woolery, “Jack Smith” and I not only signed, but that also contained our thumb prints. He also asked for the Trombetta waivers and at least four specimens each of our “known signatures” from independent sources, such as checks or receipts.

On May 31, he submitted a declaration, sworn under penalty of perjury, in which he concluded that the Trombetta waivers witnessed by Officer Beutel (mine and “Jack Smith’s”) and the waiver witnessed by Officer Beutel’s husband-to-be Mark Corbett, had been forged.

“Forensic handwriting examinations revealed that the handwriting features observed on the ‘Peter Lance’ signature were not consistent with, nor did they represent the natural, normal nor genuine handwriting characteristics of Peter Lance as demonstrated by his known specimen signature samples,” wrote Mr. Blanco in the declaration. “Neither were the signature samples of Alison Woolery (or) ‘Jack Smith.’ The (Trombetta waiver) signatures were ‘simulations’ where the forger attempted to reproduce the pictorial likeness of true signatures by Lance, Woolery and (‘Jack Smith’).”

“Beyond a reasonable doubt,” says Mr. Blanco, “I concluded that the signatures on those blood-test waivers were forgeries.”

At this point Mr. Blanco wasn’t asked to determine who did the forgeries. He can’t say for sure who executed them in Woolery case. But with my waiver and that of “Jack Smith,” Officer Beutel signed and dated a box next to the signatures that said “Witnessed (Arresting Officer).”

“The prospect that Officer Kasi Beutel,” says defense attorney Mr. Genis, “or Mark Corbett, who preceded her on the Drinking Driver Team, witnessed forged documents that were inserted into police reports, raises chilling questions about how far officers of the SBPD are willing to go in order to build airtight DUI convictions. Without a blood test or a video recording of the event, an arrestee is at a severe disadvantage and if an officer is willing to lie, the suspect is at the mercy of the D.A.’s office and the judge. Their only hope is to convince a jury, which is terribly difficult when it’s their word versus a decorated, uniformed officer on the stand.”

At a hearing before Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Judge Brian Hill on May 31, we entered James Blanco’s sworn declaration into evidence in the People vs. Peter Lance. A hearing was set for July 26 in which Mr. Blanco will conduct a further examination in open court along with a handwriting expert provided by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

As reported in Part Two of this series on Thursday, Santa Barbara fisherman Michael Kenny was shot with a stun gun by Officer Beutel after a routine traffic stop, only to insist on a blood test, which proved he had a BAC of .07, which is below the legal limit.

“His case underscores the importance,” says defense attorney Mr. Genis, “of an officer making all DUI suspects fully aware of their right to a blood test versus a breath test where the results can be manipulated.”

On June 6, I submitted a series of questions to Officer Kasi Beutel regarding her conduct, not just in my case, but that of Alison Woolery, “Jack Smith” and Michael Kenny. As of press time, she had not responded.

But on Wednesday, Police Chief Cam Sanchez issued a statement in support of Officer Beutel, citing the many “built-in safeguards to ensure that her every arrest was fair, unbiased, and met strict judicial review.”

As to the accuracy of the Alcotest 7410 Plus breathalyzer, Dean Warden, senior criminalist with the California Department of Justice lab in Goleta, confirmed for me last week that all of the 7410 units in the Santa Barbara Police Department are about to be replaced with the 7510, a new breath testing device from Drager, manufacturer of the 7410.

“These units are 9 years old,” he says, “and they’re starting to show their age. Their batteries are failing. It has nothing to do with accuracy.”

In Part Four of this series to run Saturday, we’ll examine a series of statements made in federal and state court civil proceedings from 2000 to 2005 that appear to demonstrate a willingness to commit perjury.

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