Henry K. Lee, 10/16/10
A Santa Clara police officer has been arrested and charged with passing confidential information to a member of the Hells Angels, authorities said Friday.
Clay Rojas, 36, a five-year employee of the Santa Clara Police Department, allegedly supplied private Department of Motor Vehicles information about people to William Bettencourt, 38, a member of the Santa Cruz chapter of the Hells Angels.
Rojas, who formerly worked as a San Jose police officer, sent the undisclosed information electronically to Bettencourt between Aug. 19 and Sept. 3, according to a complaint filed by Santa Clara County prosecutors.
Bettencourt then passed along some of the information electronically to Viviana Rodriguez, 31, of San Jose, according to police and the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office.
Rojas knew that Bettencourt was a member of the Hells Angels, “but the relationship between and the motives of the defendants continue to be investigated,” police said.
Rojas, Bettencourt and Rodriguez were arrested Thursday on suspicion of conspiracy and booked at Santa Clara County Jail in San Jose.
Rojas was released Thursday night after posting $250,000 bail. He declined to comment Friday, referring a call to his attorney, Terry Bowman. She said she could not discuss the case in detail because she had not received any police reports.
But Bowman said, “I can tell you he’s a gang expert, not a gang member. He enjoys a reputation as a solid officer. He’s surprised by the allegations.”
Rojas and Rodriguez face a maximum sentence of three years in prison if found guilty of the conspiracy charge. Rodriguez is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
If convicted, Bettencourt faces 25 years to life in prison under the state’s “three strikes” law because of previous convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats. Bettencourt is being held without bail.
An e-mail message sent to the Santa Cruz chapter of the Hells Angels was not returned.
Santa Clara Police Chief Steve Lodge said no officers besides Rojas have been implicated.
“This incident tarnishes the good name of our department and our profession, but at the end of the day, I believe this is an isolated incident limited to one employee,” Lodge said in a statement. “He made some incredibly bad decisions that amount to criminal conduct.”