One of the men set up in a Concord private investigator’s so-called “dirty DUI” scheme has filed a lawsuit, targeting Christopher Butler, as well as his ex-wife and his ex-wife’s attorney.
In a complaint filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, Declan Woods of Clayton alleges that San Ramon family law attorney Mary Nolan was looking for an advantage for her client, Woods’ estranged wife. Nolan represented Woods' ex-wife in the couple’s pending divorce case. Nolan in turn hired Butler to set up Woods to be arrested for drunken driving, Woods alleges in his Feb. 27 complaint.
Woods, a contractor, claims he was a victim of fraud, abuse of process, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
He names as defendants Butler, Nolan, his ex-wife Louise Woods, and Lauren Gard, who was hired by Butler to flirt with Woods with a restaurant, get him drunk then encourage him to get behind the wheel of a car.
Woods and Louise Woods filed for divorce in March 2007 after 16 years of marriage. They have two children, a son and a daughter, then 10 and 7.
The two were at odds over money, property, child and spousal support and child custody, according to divorce records in Contra Costa County Superior Court. While there was a rental property in Oakley and a vacation home in Arnold, the focus of their dispute was the family home in Clayton. Woods said he wanted to keep the house for the kids and because he liked using the address as an office and to store equipment for his construction business.
Several months after the couple filed for divorce, Christopher Butler entered the picture, unbeknownst to Woods.
Butler has since become perhaps the most famous – or infamous – private investigator in America, thanks to a series of magazine and TV exposes and state and federal investigations . The inquiries led to federal corruption and drug charges lodged against Butler and his longtime friend Norm Wielsch, the former commander of the multi-agency Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement task force.
Aside from allegedly dealing drugs, stolen from county evidence lockers, and overseeing a Pleasant Hill massage parlor, Butler also designed DUI stings, using the services of attractive women, to tarnish the reputations of men involved in divorce cases.
Nolan was the attorney of record in several of Butler’s now infamous “dirty DUI cases,” according to Contra Costa County Senior Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett. Witnesses, including employees in Nolan’s San Ramon office, said Nolan had advanced knowledge of some of the dirty DUI operations before they took place, Jewett added.
In his lawsuit, Woods contends that Nolan and each of the other defendants knew what they all were doing: “Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that each and every defendant was the agent, employee and or servant of every other defendant, and performed the acts complained of herein … and was acting with the content, ratification, permission, knowledge and authorization of each of the remaining defendants.”
Federal prosecutor Hartley West of the U.S. Attorney’s Office could not confirm whether Nolan’s alleged role in the dirty DUIs is the subject of any inquiry. Woods said FBI agents interviewed him in July 2011.
A spokesman for the California State Bar Association declined to comment on whether Nolan is facing any investigation for possible professional misconduct violations. Her status with the state bar is listed as “active,” with no public record of discipline
Nolan did not return a call seeking comment. Woods and his ex-wife also did not return emails seeking comment. In sworn declaration, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Woods' ex-wife declined to discuss the case with the Los Angeles Times but said she did not authorize to have Woods arrested.
According to the lawsuit, Woods stepped into the Butler’s “honey trap” on July 20, 2007. That afternoon at about 5 he went to a home in Walnut Creek to meet with a woman named Lauren, who represented herself as the owner of the house. She told Woods she wanted him to give her an estimate for a kitchen remodel.
The two talked for approximately 30 minutes. Lauren asked Woods where he was headed next. Woods said he was going to Ed’s Mudville Grille in Clayton for dinner.
Thirty minutes after Woods sat down at the restaurant and ordered dinner, Lauren showed up with a female friend. Lauren asked to join Woods, then sat down and ordered a round of drinks.
After dinner, Lauren suggested they all go to the Clayton Club and have some more drinks. Woods agreed. While at the Clayton Club, Lauren urged Woods to drink shots of hard alcohol. Lauren became so flirtatious that she jumped on Woods lap and started kissing him in public.
Several more rounds of drinks followed. When Lauren suggested Woods follow her back to her house to go hot-tubbing, Woods agreed.
Lauren, her friend and Woods left the club and went into the club’s parking lot. The two women got into one car and pulled out. Woods got into his work truck to follow. A few blocks behind Lauren’s car he was pulled over by a Clayton police officer who administered a field sobriety test. Woods blew a 0.21 on the field breath test, more than 2 ½ times the legal limit, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
On September 2007, Woods pleaded no contest to driving under the influence, paid a fine and attended an alcohol awareness program.
His divorce became final in 2008. From the filing in his divorce case, it’s not clear whether Nolan used Woods’ DUI to gain advantage in negotiations over the couple’s property and custody settlement.Woods' attorney, Edward Casey, declined to comment.
Woods didn’t know then that he had been a victim of a set up, and he didn’t know anything about Butler’s growing fame as the head of a private investigations firm that employed “P.I. Moms,” – attractive women to gather information on cheating spouses and divorcing men.
In late 2008, David Dutcher, Concord father of two, was going through an acrimonious divorce when he met an attractive blonde for a date at Concord’s Old Spaghetti Factory. After an evening of drinking, he, too, received an invitation to follow the woman back to her home to use a hot tub. And, he, too, was pulled over and arrested for drunken driving.
Dutcher was another alleged victim of Butler’s dirty DUI schemes; the attorney for Dutcher’s estranged wife was Mary Nolan.
Contra Costa County prosecutors have said the arrest of Woods and Dutcher follows a familiar script hatched by Butler, a former Antioch police officer. He would hire attractive women to get investigative targets drunk and rely on his contacts in law enforcement to make sure the men were stopped as they drove under the influence. Prosecutors offered to help Woods and Dutcher remove their DUI convictions. On January 23, Judge William Kolin allowed Woods to withdraw his guilty plea and the DUI charges against him were dismissed.
At one point, Woods was able to track down Lauren through email. He had already learned that the Walnut Creek home where they met did not belong to her. She confirmed his suspicions that he was set up and told him she had been hired by a private investigator. But she wouldn’t name the investigator.
Woods also confronted his ex-wife. She scoffed at his suggestion of a setup and denied any involvement. “You are insane! How do you pay for someone to get a DUI?”
Everything became clear for Woods following Butler and Wielsch’s high-profile arrests in February 2011. A San Francisco Chronicle reporter told Woods about the dirty DUI schemes, Woods said in his lawsuit. This knowledge didn’t erase the regrets he had about being arrested. "That DUI brought me a lot of shame," Woods told the Chronicle. "I did it, I was wrong, I admit it. But I've also been telling people for years: I was set up."
Woods also was shocked to hear from the reporter about Nolan’s supposed role.
“Prior to March 2011, [Woods] l had never even contemplated the possibility that Nolan, an officer of the court, had any involvement in the dirty DUI schemes,” his lawsuit says.