Former Contra Costa County drug task force commander Norman Wielsch was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in a police corruption case that scandalized the Bay Area.
Wielsch's crimes could have landed him in jail for up to 17 years and his attorney, Raymond Erlach, had argued for 10. The sentenced, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong, reflected a middle range.
In December 2012, Wielsch pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges including narcotics possession, distribution and sales, theft from a federally funded program, and civil rights violations including conducting illegal searches and seizures.
The 51-year-old Concord resident the former commander of the now-defunct Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team. Wielsch admitted to committing a series of crimes between 2009 and 2011 that included stealing marijuana and methamphetamine seized during CNET raids and selling the drugs with the help of Antioch private investigator Christopher Butler.
He also admitted to teaming up with Butler to target prostitutes and steal cash, cellphones and other items from them under the guise of making an arrest.
In a May 9 written statement, Wielsch apologized for his actions and pinned his actions on declining physical and emotional state.
"My physical and mental disease and my daughter's disease caused me into a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior. My doctor and family begged me to seek psychiatric help. I was the big macho cop. I didn't need help," Wielsch wrote. "As you may know, the culture in law enforcement is that it is taboo to appear weak by asking for help from anyone, let alone a mental health specialist. I would like to help change that culture in some way. I would like to bring attention to PTSD and depression in the law enforcement community. This disease needs to be addressed."
Wielsch continued that he would like to speak to police academies and departments about the importance of seeking professional help to cope with depression or nightmares, and to encourage colleagues "to resist the 'I'm a strong cop, I don't need help' excuse."
"I gave 24 years of honest hard work. I have seen things and been through things that would make a normal person go crazy after one incident," Wielsch wrote. "Your Honor, I endured these protecting the community, until my own breakdown. Please have mercy on me."
The corruption case led to the arrest of two other county law enforcement officers, former Danville police officer and Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy Stephen Tanabe and former San Ramon Police officer Louis Lombardi. Former private investigator and Antioch police officer Christopher Butler was sentenced to eight years in prison for charges including extortion, robbery and conspiring to deal drugs.