Breaking: Prominent S.F. Private Investigator Indicted For Allegedly Scaring Off Witness

A San Francisco private investigator who works with criminal defense attorneys has been indicted on a felony count of dissuading a witness, a charge stemming from his alleged efforts to scare off a star witness in an attempted murder case last month.

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Steve Vender, in a 2007 SF Weekly photograph
Steve Vender was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday and arrested this afternoon, according to Brian Buckelew, spokesman for the office of District Attorney Kamala Harris. Vender was being held on $75,000 bail, and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to three years in state prison.

"Justice is silenced by the culture of intimidation," Buckelew said in an e-mail to SF Weekly. "This terrorism in all its forms has no place in the criminal justice system and must end."

The district attorney's office alleges that Vender persuaded Ladarius Greer, the victim and star witness in last month's attempted-murder case against Phil Pitney, to disappear on the eve of his scheduled testimony at trial. During the Pitney trial, prosecutors introduced a transcript of a call Vender had made to Greer, suggesting he "visit the Fresno Riviera." Police assert that Vender told Greer he would be arrested on a Solano County warrant if he showed up in court.

Vender, a veteran investigator who has frequently been hired by defense lawyers in high-profile murder cases, has maintained that there was nothing illegal about his contact with Greer. He could not be reached for comment this afternoon.

No charges were filed against Pitney's defense attorney, Eric Safire, who said he had no knowledge of Vender's contact with Greer, although police say the intimidating phone call was made from Safire's law office.

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