The former commander of a Contra Costa County drug squad won permission from a federal magistrate in Oakland today to travel to Los Angeles for what his lawyer says is an appearance on the Dr. Phil daytime television talk show.
Norman Wielsch, 50, of Antioch, is a former state drug enforcement agent who headed the Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team, known as CNET.
He and former private investigator Christopher Butler of Concord face an array of drug and corruption charges in a federal grand jury indictment issued on Aug. 8. Wielsch, who is free on $100,000 bail, asked U.S. Magistrate Laurel Beeler in a court filing this morning for permission to travel with defense attorney Michael Cardoza to Southern California on Feb. 5 and 6.
Beeler signed an order granting permission Thursday afternoon.
Although Wielsch didn't give a reason for the trip, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hartley West, who opposed the request, said in a filing that she learned from the court pretrial services officer supervising Wielsch that the purpose is to appear on the Dr. Phil show.
Cardoza confirmed that Wielsch's plan is to appear on the reality talk show hosted by psychologist Phil McGraw in Los Angeles.
"He's doing it," said Cardoza, who said Wielsch's interview will be recorded on Monday for broadcast in mid-February.
The attorney said Wielsch's aim in the unpaid appearance is to reach out to other law enforcement officers who may be under stress and encourage them to seek psychological help.
"He wants to make a plea to officers who are in the same type of trouble he was in, with physical disabilities and stress, not to let the macho atmosphere of police departments prevent them from getting help," Cardoza said. "He will be able to reach a lot of people" on the daytime show, Cardoza said.
"A lot of wives of police officers will be watching and we hope they will have a chit-chat with their husbands in the evening. If he can reach just one person, he will feel good," the defense attorney said.
Cardoza said the stress Wielsch was under at the time of the alleged crimes between 2009 and 2011 included neuropathic problems with his feet and anxiety over a daughter's medical problems.
Wielsch and Butler are accused in the federal indictment of stealing and then reselling marijuana and methamphetamine seized by CNET, extorting payments from women in an illegal massage parlor they ran, and conducting phony sting operations in which they stole money and cellphones from prostitutes they identified from Internet advertisements. No trial date has been set.