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Braden Wenger

Other Contra Costa County Exonerations
Shortly before 1 a.m. on January 2, 2014, police began chasing a truck that they said had failed to stop for a stop sign in Pittsburg, California. Police said that the truck failed to stop for more than a mile-long pursuit during which it drove at excessive speeds and disobeyed traffic lights.

When the vehicle was finally curbed, the driver, 30-year-old Braden Wenger, emerged and was confronted at gunpoint by Pittsburg police officers Michael Sibbitt and his partner.

Sibbitt later reported that Wenger refused commands to get back in the truck and at one point asked, “Are you going to shoot me for running a stop sign?”

Sibbitt said he holstered his firearm and drew his Taser. He ordered Wenger to get on the ground or he would be Tased. Sibbitt said that when Wenger refused, he Tased him. Sibbitt’s Taser failed to fully deploy, however, so his partner Tased Wenger as well.

Wenger was taken to a hospital where, according to Sibbitt, Wenger tore the Taser darts out and threw them on the floor of the emergency room.

Wenger was treated and then taken to the Pittsburg Police lockup. He was charged with resisting arrest, fleeing police, destroying evidence (the Taser darts) and driving on a suspended license.

On July 16, 2015, Wenger pled guilty in Contra Costa County Superior Court to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. He was sentenced to 25 days in jail.

On December 12, 2016, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to vacate Wenger’s conviction as well as more than a dozen others. The motions were granted and the cases were dismissed.

The prosecution took the action because the police had failed to disclose to the prosecution—and ultimately to lawyers in the Contra Costa Public Defenders Office who were representing Wenger—that Sibbitt and another officer, Elisabeth Ingram, had been accused of beating suspects in other cases with flashlights. Defense attorneys could have used the information to challenge the officers’ testimony.

The action came after former Pittsburg police Lt. Wade Derby filed a lawsuit earlier in 2016 claiming that he had warned the department and provided memoranda to the Pittsburg police chief that the department was failing to turn over the records to the prosecution and to defense attorneys.

According to a lawsuit Sibbitt and Ingram filed against the Pittsburg police department, they were placed on administrative leave in June 2014 and resigned from the force “under duress” in August 2014. Their lawsuit claimed that other officers instructed them to falsify crime reports and not to report use of force during arrests in order to downplay crimes and present a portrait of a city with a lower crime rate.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/7/2017
County:Contra Costa
Most Serious Crime:Other Nonviolent Misdemeanor
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2014
Sentence:25 days
Age at the date of reported crime:30
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No