'Bait Car' Conversations with Cops Likely to Be Revealed, Could Help Alleged Car Thieves

Categories: Law & Order
As they say, the devil is in the details.
The nitty-gritty details of the behind-the-scenes discussions between San Francisco police and truTV's Bait Car reality TV show will likely be revealed in court -- soon.

On Thursday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Andrew Cheng said he was granting a motion that will force prosecutors to hand over all of the conversations and information exchanged between the city and the show's producers regarding the on-camera sting that was conducted last year.

The ruling applies to the cases of four alleged car thieves who were busted on-camera while taking a car that was intentionally abandoned by undercover cops, often with the door open and the keys in the ignition.

The Public Defender's Office is calling Thursday's ruling a victory for the defendants.

"It's everything we want," says Evan Budaj, a volunteer with the Public Defender's Office. "I know on TV, I've seen officers running with their guns out. I've seen the girls who jump out [of the bait car] and make a big scene."

He continues, "It will be interesting to see if those two things are things they planned ahead of time, like 'Yeah, you should run up to the car with your guns out because that's good for TV,' or is that something they thought of at the time?"

Cheng said he was granting the motion, but it won't become official until the public defender submits the order and police have the opportunity to formally object to it.

Highlights from the public defender's request include the following:

  • Notes, scripts, e-mails, or any other communication between KKI Productions and any city department about mechanics of the bait car sing.
  • Any discussions about locations or individuals targeted for the show.
  • Any verbal "enticement" from the cops or KKI encouraging defendants to take the car.
  • Any scripts or memos in which the four defendants are discussed. 

The defense attorneys scored another victory earlier this year, when two San Francisco judges demanded that prosecutors release all of KKI's footage of the alleged car thieves.

As we wrote in our January cover story, KKI argued that the footage was protected by the federal shield law for journalists. Yet Cheng and Judge Gerardo Sandoval rejected that argument, ruling that KKI had waived its shield law privileges when it signed its contract with the city. The contract stated that KKI would hand over any footage subpoenaed by the city or the District Attorney's Office.

With the new requested information at hand, defense attorneys might be able to produce a similar argument to that of Deputy Public Defender Steve Rosen, who argued that because police had left the car with the goal for someone to steal it, there wasn't a "lack of consent," key language of the state's joyriding law. A San Francisco judge bought the argument and dismissed the charges against Rosen's client. 

Erica Derryck, spokeswoman for the DA's Office, says it's up to police now to contest the order, since they have the vast majority of those documents.

Budaj remains optimistic. "I think there's going to be some really interesting things in these documents," he says. "I'm excited to see what's there."

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Would someone please enlighten me as to why jumping on perps with their guns drawn -- even if it was "to make good TV" is a bad thing? How could this help a defendant's case?

Last I checked, all of these clowns didn't have permission to "borrow" the bait car. They walked up and took something that wasn't their property. They could have just as easily taken the keys in the car, turned the car off, thrown the keys under the seat, and locked the car (thereby making it harder for the next clown to steal). Or, better yet, they could just call the cops and left the car alone (I think I actually saw some guy doing this in one episode while some clown just jumped in and took it).

These criminals got what they deserved and if it makes for "good tv", so be it (even though personally, I think show is interesting enough for about a youtube clip's length of time). -mm


In reply to Willie Mays..You seem to want to be a guardian of San Francisco values , as you and most others perceive them but still manage to come off as a 'jock' , in your case , i.e. "balls" and public showdowns "meet me after school." and so forth. I get a life reading that you're probably African American and naturally aren't used to a forum of civilised debate. Physical assault followed by prison time is all that you have been shown , if this be the case. "Think on that" even sounds '850 Bryant St.'..If not , it's standard discourse now for a society that's been completely and thoroughly 'American Idle'd' down to a point where we're all 'equal' now , just like the 'Stalin Worshippers' intended. I realise that 'moral relativists' , like you , see crime in all it's forms , as a quasi-revolutionaryanarcho-communist "Take direct action' militant statement..As long as the crime is committed against someone else and NOT you. Hence your completely flacid attempt at put down with , usually , sports centric analogies I'm in pretty good condition and wouldn't know how to be a 'couch potato'. No body took my lunch money. I don't expect much else in debate anymore , so..


Public defenders office celebrates a perceived 'victory for criminals'..so , what else is new? San Francisco liberals very much love and value career criminals as they view them as integral to multiculturalism and diversity , overall and as oppressed by 'the man's system'. It's 'standard issue' for S.F. 'limousine progressive/liberals' (remember Simply Red?)..


By "criminals" you're referring to SFPD and the production company, right?


No...It's to you and your '211Steel Reserve' swilling SSI recipient buddies sitting at the #27 Line bus stop , inbound , on Cyril Magnin Way.

Willie Mays
Willie Mays

Mr. Fleming,

Did you lose your safety blanket as a child? Did you have your lunch money stolen? Do you sit in front of your screen all day long and fume at the fact that you live in SF and not Texas?

Or are you just another race-baiting couch potato without the balls to say this sort of drivel in public and be held accountable on the spot?

Think on that.

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