David Paul Edmiston, the former acting police chief of the Kern High School District who was arrested in October after a subordinate officer discovered he was being illegally recorded, pleaded no contest Thursday to one misdemeanor count of criminal eavesdropping — but he’ll likely never be sentenced for the crime.
That’s because the Kern County District Attorney’s office offered the longtime police officer a deferred entry of judgement, meaning Edmiston will only be sentenced in April 2018 if he breaks the law again, his lawyer, Kyle Humphrey, said.
“My client isn’t the lawbreaking type of fellow, and if he successfully avoids any other violations of the law, he can withdraw his plea and the case will be dismissed without him being guilty of anything,” Humphrey said.
Charges were filed after Edmiston called at least one employee into his office for interviews and recorded him without his knowledge or consent. It happened on four separate occasions, according to a District Attorney’s office news release from November.
Lt. Jerald Wyatt — who played a part in uncovering what’s alleged to be a decades-long practice of district administrators illegally misusing a sensitive police information database — reported Edmiston to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in October after he discovered he was being illegally recorded in Edmiston’s office.
KHSD placed Edmiston on administrative leave that month. Meanwhile, Wyatt filed a government claim last week against the district alleging whistleblower retaliation, a precursor to a civil lawsuit.
Those recordings have been under court seal, and the nature of the conversations are not known in detail. The DA's office declined to release them Friday, citing privacy restrictions.
Wyatt’s lawyer, Seth O’Dell, has said that they deal broadly with personnel issues and include discussions about other officers. Releasing them could violate the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, he added.
Humphrey wouldn’t discuss specifically why Edmiston was recording Wyatt, but called the matter a misunderstanding.
Edmiston thought he “could record a conversation if (he) didn’t intend to use it for anything other than personal notes at a later date,” Humphrey said.
“As far as what Mr. Edmiston did, it really was a mistake that he didn’t understand that other people would perceive it as differently as it was. You know, there’s just no evidence whatsoever that it was being used by or for the benefit of any other person, or the benefit of Mr. Edmiston,” Humphrey said.
Edmiston remains on administrative leave from the district, but could rejoin the department in some capacity.
An officer who has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor could continue working for a police department, said acting KHSD Police Chief Ed Komin, pending the results of an internal affairs investigation.
The acting chief — who answers to civilian administrators at KHSD — would determine “what type of discipline would be imposed, if any,” Komin said.
Because of the district’s size, wobbling somewhere between a small and medium police force, the internal affairs investigation could be handled by police officers within the department, or be tasked to an outside agency, Komin said.