Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mitchell Katz, Bay Area Winemaker, Sues Wife Over "Dirty DUI"

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge Mitchell Katz's divorce is dirtier than a dirty martini - RACHELMNOP VIA FLICKR
  • rachelmnop via Flickr
  • Mitchell Katz's divorce is dirtier than a dirty martini

East Bay winemaker Mitchell Katz, is suing his wife and Chris Butler, the notorious Contra Costa County private eye who has been at the center of a massive police scandal, claiming the two were in cahoots to trap him into getting a "Dirty DUI."

Katz, 48, filed a lawsuit last week in San Francisco court alleging that Butler, a former Antioch police officer, worked with Katz's wife,  Alicia Spenger, to ply him with alcohol and tip the cops off if he tried to drive his car. Their aim was for Spenger to gain leverage in a custody battle over the couple's two sons, according to the lawsuit.

In November 2010, Spenger met with Butler, explaining how she was "very, very, very angry -- very angry," according to the claim. Butler assured her that there was a good possibility they could have Katz arrested for driving under the influence by engineering a ruse, which he liked to call a "Dirty DUI."

Spenger agreed to the plan and allegedly paid Butler $6,601.17 to have him pull off the DUI. On Jan. 14, Katz was at the Vine wine bar in Danville, where he was supposed to be meeting with a television producer named "John" who had said he wanted to create a reality TV show based on Katz's winemaking business. While they were there, "John" and others who were part of the ruse bought Katz several rounds of drinks.

Katz ended up consuming more alcohol than he would have, according to the claim.

When Katz left the Vine he was immediately pulled over by Deputy Tanabe with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department -- without probable cause. Katz was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and booked into jail. It was later learned that Tanabe had been tipped off by "John," who was working with Butler, according to the lawsuit.

It doesn't stop there. His wife then allegedly paid Butler an extra $1,500 to have his actors continue the ruse by bringing in a fake TV crew to film Katz's winery. A few months later, "John" whose real name is Carl Marino, a former officer himself hired by Butler, sent Katz an e-mail confessing to his role and apologizing for the incident.

According to the e-mail Marino sent:

I hope you are doing well. The first thing I wanted to do was apologize to you for my part in the setup. As you can see I never wanted to be involved in Butler's shady activities which is why I put an end to them and let the DOJ [Department of Justice] know what was done to you and others."

According to the suit, Tanabe's partner, Deputy William Howard, noticed that Tanabe kept getting calls from his "PI buddy" on the night that Katz was pulled over. When he asked him about it, Tanabe told him they were about to conduct a dirty DUI. Deputy Howard felt uncomfortable with the arrest, but because of his lack of experience he went along with it, according to the claim.

Katz is seeking punitive damages for civil rights violations, bad faith arrest, conspiracy, negligence, abuse of process, false imprisonment, and constitutional violations.

Follow us on Twitter at @SFWeekly and @TheSnitchSF

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , ,

About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"