Oakland police investigator paid witness $5,000, coached testimony, woman testifies

Oakland police homicide investigator Phong Tran walked to court Friday as a criminal defendant, charged by Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price with perjury and bribing a witness.

That witness, Aisha Weber, took the stand at a preliminary hearing at the courthouse across from the Oakland Police Department.

She testified that she was paid $5,000 by Tran after she testified at a murder trial and identified two men as the killers of Charles Butler Jr. – later admitting she lied and didn't see the actual homicide.

"The testimony that we heard today was very damning. And what I mean by that is it was the proverbial nail in the coffin," said Adante Pointer, the civil rights attorney representing the men whose murder convictions were overturned.


Veteran Oakland homicide investigator surrenders; arrested on perjury, threatening witness charges

A veteran Oakland police homicide investigator accused of lying and paying off a witness years ago in a murder case surrendered Tuesday evening and was booked on charges of felony perjury, threatening a witness, bribery and other allegations.

"What you heard is a woman say that she knew nothing about the details that happened, and she was fed that information by Tran," Pointer said.

Butler was shot and killed in 2011 after he bumped into a car while parking outside a market in North Oakland.

Weber testified that even though she didn't witness the shooting, Tran told her, "That's OK. I'm going to tell you everything you need to know."

Weber told the court Friday, "I was told what to say by Officer Tran."

The case went unsolved until 2013, when KTVU aired a story featuring Tran, and the victim's terminally ill father pleading for tips. And just a week after that broadcast Weber came forward, saying she saw two men commit the crime.

Prosecutors say Tran made it look as if Weber took the initiative when in fact Tran had been paying her. At the murder trial, Weber identified Giovante Douglas and Cartier Hunter as the killers.

"Once she testified at trial, she was given a handsome $5,000 payment for her services," Pointer said.

The two men were convicted and sentenced to life. They spent 10 years behind bars before being released are now suing Tran and the city of Oakland. 

"They went to trial and were convicted on bought-for, perjured testimony at the behest of Tran," Pointer said.

Also during Friday's hearing, Judge Clifford Blakely signed an order granting Weber immunity for her testimony. Weber was in jeopardy of committing perjury before the order was signed because she is recanting her previous testimony from the trial for Butler's murder. 

"The prosecution cannot use your answers against you, is what it means," Blakely told Weber. 

Tran and his attorney did not want to comment. 

The hearing continues Tuesday, after which Judge Blakely will determine whether there's enough evidence for Tran to go to trial.

Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at Henry.Lee@fox.com and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and facebook.com/henrykleefan