Four days before his scheduled sentencing on narcotics trafficking charges, former Bakersfield Police Department Detective Damacio Diaz and his attorneys on Thursday filed a 68-page memorandum in federal court that includes everything from a bio of Diaz’s history to what the former career police officer calls “my eventual downfall.”
Reading at times like a melodrama, the document also includes a copy of a “white paper” dated Aug. 31 and addressed to BPD Assistant Chief Lyle Martin. The letter provides, in Diaz’s own words, a summary of BPD policy violations the fired cop says he and his former partner, Patrick Mara, were involved in. He also includes suggestions on how the department can review, change or eliminate what Diaz maintains were ongoing violations of policy — and most likely the law — by other members of the BPD’s narcotics unit, as well as a separate, multi-county drug enforcement task force.
Diaz’s attorney, David Torres, said Thursday it’s standard procedure to file such documents with the court prior to sentencing — in hopes of convincing the judge to impose a lighter sentence.
“I want the court to know who my client is,” he said.
But Torres downplayed details in the letter that suggest, among other things, that narcotics detectives get away with faking arrest reports, conducting narcotics seizures without the knowledge of supervisors, and checking out drugs from the evidence room for use in undercover operations and replacing them with lookalike substances.
“This is not a suggestion that there’s rampant corruption,” Torres said. “It’s simply a good-faith effort by my client to help the department.”
Sgt. Gary Carruesco, a spokesman for the BPD, said Assistant Chief Martin is still in the process of reviewing Diaz’s letter. As a result, the department could not immediately comment.
Diaz pleaded guilty last spring to taking bribes, trafficking in methamphetamine and lying on his tax return. It was all part of a plea agreement that became public last May, and all part of a life that came crashing down following Diaz’s indictment in November on a litany of charges that also included disclosure of wiretap information to a criminal partner and interfering with a criminal investigation.
This is not the first time Diaz has suggested that detectives and patrol officers working in the dangerous and shadowy world of narcotics enforcement bend and break the rules designed to control the flow of evidence, cash and information coming from registered and unregistered police informants.
But in his letter Diaz makes clear he only wants to fix the department, not harm it.
“It is not the intent of this letter to name any other officer or detective who might have engaged in questionable behavior,” Diaz wrote. “The sole reason for this letter is to attempt to prevent any other officer, who might find themselves in similar circumstances as I did, from giving into the peer pressure, the temptation, or thinking they can get away with bending or breaking policy.”
Indeed, through much of Diaz’s bio, he speaks of growing up in a God-fearing, Christian home.
As children, he and his six siblings worked in the farm fields when they weren’t at school or practicing with the McFarland High School cross country team that would later become the subject of the Disney movie “McFarland, USA.”
All seven would go on to earn degrees in higher education.
“Being a police officer was more than I could ever have expected,” Diaz wrote in the public statement included in Thursday’s filing. “I absolutely loved my job and never thought I would do anything else for the rest of my life.”
But Diaz’s God-fearing background seemed to crumble under the nefarious influences that crept into his world as an undercover narc: alcohol use with fellow cops, even during duty hours, and eventually the lure of drug money.
“One of my partners … became one of my closest friends and later also became my worst nightmare,” he wrote. “He was very charismatic, charming and savvy. He often talked about the amount of money our targeted drug dealers were making and the amount of money we were paying informants. His name is Patrick Mara.”
Eventually, Diaz admits he began accepting money from Guillermo “Memo” Magallanes, his drug-dealing informant, who sometimes carried around an impressive wad of cash.
Memo “had complete control of me because I knew he could hurt me, my career and future at any given time,” Diaz said.
Instead of booking seized drugs into evidence, he admits he and Mara conspired to have Mara sell the methamphetamine to a drug dealer contact.
“It didn’t take a lot of convincing by Pat Mara to get me to jump on board with his scheme,” he said.
Diaz now swears he has turned the hell he has created into an opportunity to help others, to help others learn from his mistakes. Through dozens of speaking engagements as a “motivational speaker,” Diaz said he can help steer others away from the life-altering mistakes he has made.
Diaz is scheduled to be sentenced in federal district court in Fresno on Monday. Mara’s sentencing is scheduled later in October.
Diaz could be sentenced to between 17 and 22 years in prison if Judge Lawrence O’Neill follows the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney’ s Office.
But Torres is hoping for leniency.
He would like to see his client sentenced to time served.
“If not, I would like to see a reasonable sentence,” Torres said, “under 60 months.”