When most people think of a drug dealer, the stereotypical vision is a shady exchange of money for drugs on a street corner. There is a certain level of darkness and mistrust involved. You would not normally envision someone that has been trusted to keep the public safe like a police officer. This was, in fact, the case in Sacramento, California as several police officers faced charges tied to selling drugs they gained during arrests, but they were only given probation.
Two former Kern County sheriff deputies were sentenced this week for their role in the sale of drugs that they took possession of during raids and arrests. Both Logan August and Derrick Penney entered guilty pleas back in May to drug conspiracy charges. These charges could have resulted in up to five years in prison, but neither August or Penney will serve any prison time.
The two deputies were also only a part of the overall drug ring. Two other members of the force, Detective Patrick Mara and his partner Damacio Diaz, were also arrested in the case. Mara and Diaz faced charges tied to selling seized methamfetamine that was also taken in raids. Both Mara and Diaz received prison time for selling the drugs.
Out of the four charged, both Penney and August received lenient sentences. In the majority of cases, a law enforcement officer getting caught breaking the law would not end in something as low-level as community service. According to a news report about the case:
“In a candid exchange with August, Judge Lawrence O’Neill admitted he was convinced during August’s plea to go against his initial judgment.
“As a judge I have to ask, ‘Is this person sorry more because he got caught or because of what they did?’ I’m convinced you’re sorry because of what you did,” he said. “When I entered the courtroom, I intended to say in this case that when an officer breaches the law, it is a prison case, not a probation case.”
He proceeded to sentence August to three years of probation.
“To sentence you to prison would be telling the public they have to pay for you again,” the judge said, nodding toward the cost of incarceration.”
Judge O’Neill, in this case, used the high cost of prison in the state to explain a very light sentence for August. Even though he was guilty of dealing drugs and had made a profit of $15,000, the judge saw there was no need to punish August further. August will not spend even a day in prison after selling drugs that put others behind bars and using a confidential informant they met through the force to do so.
It is hard to understand how someone who was caught dealing drugs on a street corner could face prison time but a police officer selling drugs he got on the job does not serve any time at all. There is an underlying idea there that the officer is some way has already been punished, so they are above the law.
As Judge O’Neill explained “…your profession, that’s gone. The pension is gone. The respect is gone.” During sentencing, the focus was not on holding the officers accountable but instead avoiding further embarrassment for their families. The judge was careful to remind the court that both August and Penney shamed their families.
August is ordered to perform 1,500 hours of community service while Penney will be doing just 250 hours. Each of the men will also serve three years of probation, although Penney has been allowed to move out of the area for a new start of life. This is not something that typically happens as someone is put on probation either. It seems odd that Penney is being allowed to walk away from the shame the Judge spoke about and become a member of a new community. According to Penney:
“I haven’t tried to hide any of this, I haven’t tried to put this off on anybody else. This was a single bad decision that I made. I accept that, and I’m moving on from it.”
As Penney moved out of the area, August also celebrated his second chance. According to August:
“…I get a second chance with my children, I get a second chance as a husband, and as a community member in Kern County.
I want to be a positive influence to these guys who are on probation like me, or they’re dealing with some sort of conviction that’s keeping them out of being with their family and just show them the little ways that they can be an impact on their kids.”
While on paper it seems nice that August wants to be a positive voice in his community, it is not clear how many of the men he speaks of are facing charges and higher penalties for similar crimes. It is also not clear how an ex-deputy serving no prison time will be accepted into the community at large either.