Imagine being a sheriff’s deputy and being so white that after you and your fellow deputy confess to stealing weed from the sheriff’s office’s evidence locker, selling it in the community with the help of a former snitch who puts it out on the street for you, and then sharing the profits in a three-way split, a federal judge takes pity on you, your wives and your families and lets you off with probation.
Such is the case for two deputies with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in Bakersfield, Calif. Logan August and Derrick Penney appeared in a federal courtroom in Fresno, Calif., on Monday for sentencing, and Bakersfield.com reports that U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill was “clearly moved by the defendants’ remorse, their decision to voluntarily confess everything to investigators, the pain the families have already suffered, and the unwavering support the two wives have given their husbands.”
According to the report, the judge asked the wives, Tiffany August and Callie Penney, to stand in the courtroom and said, “Being the wife of a law-enforcement officer is not easy. Being the wife of a fallen law-enforcement officer is even more difficult.”
(He said that like they are dead or something.)
O’Neill then said that the wives had taken the brunt of the suffering caused by the acts of their husbands. He praised them for not leaving their husbands and for standing by them throughout the experience.
“The both of you should be proud,” O’Neill said.
Deputy Penney was formerly assigned to the Gang Suppression Section-Investigations Unit, and Deputy August was assigned to the Major Vendors Narcotics Unit of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
The two officers were accused of conspiring with Bakersfield Police Department Detective Patrick Mara and his onetime police partner Damacio Diaz, both of whom were sentenced last year to five years in federal prison for stealing methamphetamine and putting it back on the streets. Both Mara and Diaz admitted to their crimes.
The two former deputies “quietly” made plea agreements with federal prosecutors that were not announced to the public, Bakersfield.com reported in May. They agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
They both faced a maximum of five years in prison each, a fine of $250,000 each and a minimum of two years of supervised release, along with other penalties. They pleaded guilty in federal court May 15. From a previous Bakersfield.com report:
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, according to the documents.
The pot—about 8 pounds worth of salable 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 Bakersfield.com, they could be subject to asset forfeiture if their property is determined to be the fruit of ill-gotten gains.
(Gonna guess that last thing doesn’t happen, though.)
The case against the two officers was a result of a joint investigation by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bakersfield Police Department with assistance from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
Prosecutors recommended a sentence of nine months in prison for August, who they saw as being guiltier and more heavily involved in the operation than Penney. In their sentencing memorandum, they wrote that they felt the sentence was appropriate in part “because the need to deter police corruption of this kind is of paramount importance.”
Bakersfield.com reports that the prosecutors said, “Defendant’s actions were motivated by greed, and he committed these crimes repeatedly over a nine-month period. His conduct has tarnished the reputation of the KCSO.”
For Penney, prosecutors simply recommended probation because there was no evidence of his criminal activity beyond his one-time theft of marijuana from the evidence locker, and also because he was the first to admit his crimes to the authorities. He also convinced August and Mara to come clean as well, according to the report.
There also was a lot of dramatic testimony at the sentencing hearing from people like August’s younger sister and his wife.
Penney did not have anyone speak on his behalf, but he apologized for breaking his oath to uphold the law and protect the community.
I imagine there are a great many wives and girlfriends who have stood by their men during a drug investigation and trial. I imagine there are many children who have sat in the county jail day room, waiting to see a jailed father who may not ever come home again after trial and sentencing.
I imagine there are plenty of mothers, aunts, grandmothers and sisters who have depended on what little bit of drug money the male offenders in their families have provided for them, just as these wives likely did.
I don’t imagine anyone getting that kind of response from a judge, though.
While U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to work to put poor black and brown bodies in jail, these two white deputies will walk freely in the community with their families by their side. They are free to find another job and keep earning for their families.
If only people who are considered criminals, which these cops, in fact, are, got that same kind of consideration.
Read more at Bakersfield.com.