Disgraced former Bakersfield Police Department Detective Patrick Mara could be sentenced to between roughly 21 and 27 years in prison on Monday if a federal court judge in Fresno follows the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
But sending the former cop that far down the river doesn’t seem likely if the experience of Mara’s former police partner, Damacio Diaz, is any indication.
Diaz, 44, was sentenced to five years in federal prison earlier this month despite a sentencing recommendation from the U.S. attorney of roughly 17 to 22 years.
Will Mara, who didn’t come clean as early as Diaz, receive the same consideration as his former partner, whose sentence Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green last week characterized as “extremely lenient?” Or will an example be made of the younger of the two detectives?
As with Diaz, Mara’s fate lies ultimately in the hands of U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill, who has broad discretion.
According to a sentencing memorandum filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the federal prosecutor’s office argued for a term of 262-327 months for Mara — roughly 21 to 27 years — even more time than was recommended for Diaz
Mara pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement in June to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Also similar to Diaz’s case, federal probation officials recommend an 82-month “variance,” or reduction in Mara’s sentence based on the defendant’s "positive service as a police officer” prior to his involvement in stealing and selling narcotics, “family support and family responsibilities, which include two children,” and “no prior criminal record.”
The U.S. Probation Office recommended Mara be sentenced to 180 months, or 15 years. But federal prosecutors argued in the memorandum against any variance, citing “defendant’s significant and serious breach of the public trust and his betrayal of the honest, hard-working officers who protect the Bakersfield community, and communities nationwide, on a daily basis.”
Mara admitted in his plea agreement that he conspired with Diaz to use their positions as police officers to steal narcotics from drug dealers and sell them through a third party for their own personal gain.
In a letter Diaz sent to the BPD in August — essentially a summary of BPD policy violations the fired cop says he and Mara were involved in — Diaz described the process of stealing drugs from the police property room and replacing it with a lookalike substance.
"The FBI’s investigation has revealed that this third party was defendant’s acquaintance and that this third party further distributed this methamphetamine into the community,” the factual basis for Mara’s plea agreement states. “In his plea agreement, defendant admitted that he and Diaz stole approximately 20 pounds of actual methamphetamine that should have been booked into evidence.”
The evidence also shows that the rogue cops enlisted the help of BPD patrol officers to pull over vehicles the pair believed — through information from confidential sources — carried methamphetamine.
The officers would stop the vehicles and uncover large quantities of methamphetamine, but Mara and Diaz would instruct the officers to book only a fraction of the meth. The two detectives would then take possession of the remaining narcotics.
“Notably, no criminal complaint was filed and the arrested individuals were released,” the court file states.
What it doesn’t state is to what degree the patrol officers were either complicit or clueless regarding the activities of the rogue detectives and the ultimate destination of the meth.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Delaney, no officers other than Diaz and Mara will face federal criminal charges.
A big question likely to be answered on Monday is whether Judge O’Neill will again undercut the recommendation of federal prosecutors and hand down a much shorter sentence to Mara.
Will Judge O’Neill give weight to Diaz’s story, who stated that Mara “became one of my closest friends and later also became my worst nightmare”?
Diaz described Mara as “very charismatic, charming and savvy,” and essentially blamed the younger man for seducing him into a world of drugs, cash and betrayal.
Was Diaz simply trying to deflect responsibility? Was he the charismatic mastermind?
We may never know.