Two Bakersfield, California, police detectives have been sentenced to five-year federal prison sentences.
Damacio Diaz pleaded guilty to bribery, drug trafficking and tax evasion; his partner, Patrick Mara, pleaded guilty to selling methamphetamine. They both admitted to stealing methamphetamine from drug dealers during traffic stops, reports KTLA.
In court sentencing documents, federal prosecutors said it was common behavior for the detectives to stop a vehicle they knew contained meth, pocket most of it for themselves, and turn in the remainder as evidence.
The two detectives were specially selected for a joint drug task force in a region plagued by methamphetamine, according to acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. “They became the drug traffickers themselves,” he said. “Their actions risked their fellow officers' safety for greed.”
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“What is going on here is really outrageous,” added criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos.
The scandal jeopardizes other criminal cases, say prosecutors. “The disgraceful and criminal behavior of Diaz and Mara has gravely impacted the Bakersfield Police Department as well as our community as a whole,” said Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green, who is forwarding information on the scandal to defendants in 64 potentially tainted criminal convictions.
Defendants could seek motions for a new trial or even seek to withdraw pleas in some cases, reports the Los Angeles Times. Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman said the district attorney’s office will retry the cases if necessary.
“How is the district attorney going to oppose any motion for a new trial when these investigators have admitted to such rogue behavior?” asked Ben Meiselas, who is representing several families suing the Bakersfield police.
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Diaz claimed that some of his other colleagues on the police force were also making money from drugs, but Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson said an 18-month federal and internal investigation turned up no such evidence.
“They investigated every name that came up, uncovered every rock, and no one else’s name came to light in their scandal,” he contended. However, Williamson stressed that the two corrupt detectives had done serious damage by eroding trust with the community.