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    The unanswered questions in the Kasi Beutel investigation

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    October 7, 2012 9:29 AM

    Late last summer during my investigation into the conduct of Officer Kasi Beutel, I got word that a local defense lawyer suspected that someone in law enforcement had planted heroin on one of his clients — a woman arrested on suspicion of DUI by Officer Beutel — a discovery made not in the field during an arrest pat-down, but inside the confines of the County Jail booking area, where a bindle of black tar heroin inexplicably turned up.

    At first I didn’t believe it, despite the evidence I’d assembled by then, proving that Officer Beutel, the former head of the Santa Barbara Police Department’s Drinking Driver Team and two-time Top DUI officer in the county had falsified police reports, committed perjury on a DMV form, witnessed at least five forged blood test waivers, withheld evidence from two suspects in violation of Brady rules, and pre-checked DUI forms before going into the field, suggesting a pre-determined mindset to frame innocent drivers.

    I’d uncovered additional evidence regarding the accountant-turned-cop possibly committing bankruptcy fraud in 2000 and perjury in the course of divorce proceedings just months before she donned the uniform of the Santa Barbara Police Department in 2005.

    Knowing all of that, I refused to accept that a sworn officer of the law could do something as repugnant as planting drugs on a suspect, much less heroin. Still, as with all the evidence in this investigation, I vetted the allegation with an open mind.

    Over the months since then, as more and more information surfaced, including a videotape from County Jail where the discovery of the drug took place, I came to believe that it wasn’t just possible, but probable that someone in law enforcement — perhaps Officer Beutel — had intentionally planted that bindle of black tar heroin at the feet of the DUI suspect, causing the District Attorney’s Office to charge her on additional charges beyond driving under the influence.

    Worse, Officer Beutel recommended that the District Attorney’s Office add an even more serious charge of bringing a controlled substance into a penal institution; a felony that could have put this single mother of a nine-year-old boy in prison for up to four years.

    As this latest series has shown, the woman ultimately passed a polygraph exam in which she said she didn’t bring the drugs into the facility.

    As we’ve also shown, Sheriff Bill Brown says his custody deputies did nothing wrong. And the District Attorney’s Office can draw no “definitive conclusions” as to the source of that single bindle of heroin.

    We’ve also shown the discrepancies between Officer Beutel’s version of the booking, where the discovery of the heroin took place, and the videotape.

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