Two one-time Kern County sheriff’s deputies have agreed to plead guilty in federal court to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana as part of a criminal plot that also involved at least one Bakersfield police officer, according to court documents.
The plea agreements were made quietly and not announced to the public. KGET Channel 17 was the first to report them Wednesday evening.
The deputies are Derrick Penney, who was assigned to the Gang Suppression Section-Investigations Unit, and Logan August, assigned to the Major Vendors Narcotics Unit, documents say.
The two conspired with Bakersfield Police Department Detective Patrick Mara, who, along with one-time police partner Damacio Diaz was sentenced last year to five years in federal prison after admitting to stealing methamphetamine and putting it back on the streets, thereby pocketing thousands of dollars in profits.
The admissions by the two sheriff’s deputies directly contradict assurances from former Police Chief Greg Williamson that the two disgraced BPD detectives, Mara and Diaz, acted alone.
According to the plea agreements, the pair admitted to engaging in the theft from the sheriff’s own storage unit of cannabis that had been previously confiscated from illegal grow operations.
The two deputies “abused” their positions of trust and authority, the plea agreement states, “to take for unlawful personal gain marijuana plants from KCSO property that had been seized in the course of … marijuana eradication operations.
“On or about September 19, 2014, in furtherance of this conspiracy, Penney and KCSO Deputy August used their KCSO-issued keys to gain access” to the department’s marijuana storage unit.
They admitted to cutting the tops off plants and placing them in trash bags. The stolen pot was stored at Penney’s home until another co-conspirator retrieved the stolen pot, and with the knowledge of the deputies, trimmed the crop into usable marijuana, the documents say.
The pot — about eight pounds worth of saleable material — was then returned on multiple occasions to Penney. The deputy then delivered the product, over a period of time to August, who provided it to an individual who had previously worked for him as a confidential informant.
That individual sold the weed and shared the profits with August, who then shared the money with Penney.
According to the plea bargains, federal prosecutors will recommend that the two former deputies be sentenced to a term of imprisonment at the low end of the guideline range for their offenses.
The maximum sentence that the court can impose on each defendant is five years, a fine of $250,000, a minimum two-year period of supervised release and other penalties.
They may also be subject to asset forfeiture should it be determined that their property is the fruit of ill-gotten gains.
However, if the sentences received by Mara and Diaz are any indication, Judge Lawrence O’Neill will not opt for anything close to a maximum.
The U.S. Attorney's Office had recommended sentences of 21 to 27 years for Mara and 17 to 22 years for Diaz. The sentences they received would prove to be a fraction of those recommendations.
The Sheriff's Office told KGET in a "terse statement" that it hadn't been notified the case had been resolved and that Sheriff Donny Youngblood could not comment until the case is concluded.
The two defendants are scheduled for arraignment on May 15 in federal court in Fresno.