Two police officers from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in Bakersfield, California were granted probation after they were convicted of illegally obtaining weed from an evidence locker and selling it. Yes, that’s right: cops steal weed and only get a slap on the wrist.
Judge Grants Probation for Corrupt Cop Crimes
Former deputies Logan August and Derrick Penney appeared in federal court in Fresno last Monday for sentencing. Despite the fact that prosecutors on the case had recommended a minimum of nine months in prison for their crimes, which included conspiring with fellow officers former Detective Patrick Mara and former officer Damacio Diaz for their scheme. (August, who worked as part of the Major Vendors Narcotics Unit, and Penney, who was assigned to the Gang Suppression Section-Investigations Unit, were able to have direct evidence to the cannabis stored in the county precinct’s evidence lockers. Both entered guilty pleas after they were apprehended.)
But U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill apparently had other ideas. Instead of a prison sentence, the judge handed Penney and August a term of probation because, as he opined, their families have suffered enough.
An Unrelated Reasoning
O’Neill’s stated in the courtroom that he was “clearly moved by the defendants’ remorse.” He also praised “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.”
He then directed his attention to the wives of both of the convicted parties, Tiffany August and Callie Penny.
“Being the wife of a law-enforcement officer is not easy,” he continued. “Being the wife of a fallen law-enforcement officer is even more difficult.”
One could argue O’Neill’s use of the word “fallen” might refer to a fall from grace. Despite this, it’s still a bit of an odd word choice. As Monique Judge from The Root succinctly put it: “He said that like they are dead or something.”
“The both of you should be proud,” O’Neill concluded, about to two men who had by their own admission engaged in police corruption. Two men who, though officers of the law, had sold confiscated goods back into the very community where unknown persons were arrested for possession of the same amount. And to add a bit of irony, those unknown persons most likely received punitive measures much more severe than probation.
Something to be proud of, indeed.
Leniency for Some, Not for Others
What made the sentencing even more bizarre was the fate of the other two officers involved in the ring. Mara and Diaz, who also pleaded guilty, were given five years in federal prison for their crimes. It should be noted that they sold methamphetamine, not marijuana; the former is a Schedule II drug, and the latter is a Schedule I drug. Hence, the harsher sentence.
However, we would be remiss to not mention that the leniency of August and Penney’s sentence might have to do with the fact that they’re white—especially considering that black men are four times more likely to be incarcerated for similar crimes. It’s a bleak statistic at best and serves as a foil for the privilege that Penney and August inherently possess.
In short: white cops steal weed? No problem.
Final Hit: Cops Steal Weed, Commit a Federal Offense, Walk Away Free
Unfortunately, this is an example of a lesson we’ve reified again and again. If cops steal weed—or fancy themselves above the law—they can get away with it. Even though there’s a slight chance that “they could be subject to asset forfeiture if their property is determined to be the fruit of ill-gotten gains,” as Bakersfield.com reported, Judge O’Neill’s precedent makes it seem all the more unlikely.