A Kern County sheriff’s deputy has been put on paid administrative leave in connection with an ongoing internal review of the case involving former deputies Derrick Penney and Logan August, who both pleaded guilty last month to federal conspiracy charges involving selling drugs they had stolen from evidence lockers.
Lt. Bill Starr, who supervised Penney and August, was put on administrative leave May 30, according to Undersheriff Brian Wheeler.
Wheeler said no other Sheriff’s Office employees are on leave in connection with the Penney/August review.
Starr has not been charged criminally and Wheeler did not know if he was being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, the agency that prosecuted Penney and August.
A spokeswoman for the DOJ said she had no information on Starr or whether he is considered a suspect in the Penney/August conspiracy, which extended to former Bakersfield Police Department officers Damacio Diaz and Patrick Mara.
Diaz and Mara are serving five-year sentences after pleading guilty in the fall of 2016 to, among other things, conspiring to sell methamphetamine seized in drug busts.
At the time Diaz and Mara were sentenced, former BPD Chief Greg Williamson insisted they were the only cops involved. A BPD spokesman later said Williamson meant Diaz and Mara were the only BPD officers involved.
Whatever the case, Mara was named in plea agreements by Penney and August as a co-conspirator.
Wheeler said Starr’s leave is “related to our administrative review of the Penney/August case” but declined to elaborate.
Starr, who could not be located for comment, started with the department in 2000.
He was a sergeant in charge of local deputies on the California Multijurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Task force from April 2012 to late September of 2013.
He then became the sergeant in charge of the major violator section, another dope unit, until December of 2015, Wheeler said.
Starr supervised August from October 2013 to April 2015. He supervised Penney from November 2014 through February 2016.
Starr was also a sergeant in charge of the SWAT unit at the same time Penney and August were on SWAT, according to Wheeler.
Starr was involved in use-of-force investigations where his actions were found compliant with laws and policies.
The first was in 2006.
Starr and seven other sheriff’s officers plus a police dog fought with Ray Chris Robles, 32, to keep him from assaulting his wife.
Robles later died.
The Kern County coroner’s office ruled it a homicide and said his death was caused by drug intoxication, blunt force trauma, dog bites and prone positioning.
In 2010, Starr and two other deputies were reviewed after a man was wounded when they served a search warrant for a marijuana grow in the Greenhorn mountain area.
In 2015, Starr was part of a SWAT search in the Kelso Valley.
Wanted murderer Benjamin Ashely was hiding in one of the trailers and ambushed deputies. One deputy suffered a major injury to his arm and another’s ear was grazed.
Ashley led authorities on an 18-day chase throughout the Sierra Nevada east of Bakersfield until he was shot to death outside a convenience store in Inyokern on Aug. 15.
Wheeler noted that Starr is not facing criminal charges in the current investigation and “he may never be charged,” he said.
“Anytime you have something like (the Penney/August case) happen, we do an administrative investigation.
“We look at all the policies and procedures to see if it could have been prevented or see if we can find ways to prevent it from happening in the future.”
Sentencing for Penney and August was set for Aug. 7 in federal court in Fresno.
The maximum they could get is five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.