A former Rohnert Park police officer facing charges for stealing cash and marijuana from drivers along the Sonoma-Mendocino County border pleaded guilty to multiple felonies in federal court Wednesday.
Brendon “Jacy” Tatum is one of two former Rohnert Park police officers accused of ripping off drivers along Highway 101, sometimes impersonating federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to federal investigators.
Tatum originally pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit extortion “under color of official right,” falsifying records in a federal investigation, and tax evasion. But on Wednesday, he admitted to all three charges in court.
Both Tatum and his attorney declined to comment on the allegations or the new plea.
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According to the FBI, Tatum stole thousands of dollars in cash and marijuana, and failed to report more than $400,000 in cash bank deposits that investigators say they believe was likely stolen. According to the criminal complaint, Tatum threatened to arrest drivers if they contested the seizures of their property.
Another former Rohnert Park police officer, Joseph Huffaker, is accused of conspiring with Tatum to extort cannabis and cash from drivers and faces a felony charge for conspiracy to commit extortion. He pleaded not guilty back in September and his attorney continues to maintain Huffaker’s innocence.
“It’s vindication,” said former Texas Police officer Zeke Flatten who says he had three pounds of marijuana stolen from him in late 2017 by Huffaker and another man impersonating ATF agents.
“I’m satisfied that we were able to get to this point and show evidence enough to get a law enforcement officer pleading guilty to multiple felony charges.”
Flatten says Tatum wasn’t one of the two men who robbed him, but the FBI says the former officer created a false press release and police report that attempted to frame Flatten and discredit his story.
“He wrote the report that tried to frame me,” Flatten said. “He tried to take away my freedom.”
Flatten was in court to watch Tatum change his plea and believes the admissions in court are a sign the FBI is willing to cut Tatum a deal in exchange for cooperation that might link additional police officers to potential crimes, including the second person involved in his robbery.
“Frankly, he has the keys to the castle,” Flatten said. “He knows what was going on and who was involved, who was getting the money, so he’s the ideal person to cooperate.”
In August, Flatten and three Mendocino County marijuana farmers filed a federal lawsuit alleging potential police corruption extends far beyond Rohnert Park.
You can read NBC Bay Area’s story on those allegations here