Two former Kern County Sheriff's deputies avoided prison time Monday for stealing and selling marijuana that was seized during drug busts.
Logan August and Derrick Penney were sentenced Monday to three years' probation for the charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute marijuana, according to the U.S. attorney office in Fresno.
August, a 30-year-old Bakersfield resident, was also ordered to serve 1,500 hours of community service and forfeit $16,500 earned in the trafficking operation, federal authorities said.
Penney, a 34-year-old Star, Idaho, resident, must serve 250 hours in community service and surrender $1,200, federal authorities said.
The former deputies were facing up to five years in prison for the offense.
"The defendants in this case caused a significant breach of the public's trust when they committed these crimes," U.S. Atty. Phillip A. Talbert said in a statement. "Not only did they betray the community they were sworn to serve, but also their fellow, hard-working officers who protect the Kern County community every day."
The former deputies were accused of working with former Bakersfield police detective Patrick Mara and others to steal marijuana from the Kern County Sheriff's Office storage unit, according federal court documents. The plot transpired between June 2014 and October 2014, according to the documents.
Federal authorities said the group planned to sell the cannabis, which had been previously seized by police during drug operations on private and public properties.
August was assigned to the sheriff's Major Vendor Narcotics Unit and participated in drug busts. Penney was member of the sheriff's Gang Suppression Section-Investigations Unit.
Both deputies had department-issued access cards, which they used to enter the storage unit, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Once inside, they tossed the marijuana plants and buds into trash bags, federal authorities said. After stealing the marijuana from the storage unit, they had it trimmed, so it could be sold.
August then handed the eight pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant who sold it for him, federal authorities said.
August shared his earnings with Penney, each receiving about $1,200, according to federal prosecutors. August also gave a portion of the proceeds to Mara, who is about to begin a five-year federal prison sentence in a separate case, authorities said. Mara, a 13-year Bakersfield police veteran, admitted to stealing methamphetamine from drug dealers during traffic stops.
Federal authorities said August took the marijuana from drug busts on 10 separate occasions and gave his informant about 25 pounds of cannabis. After the marijuana was sold, he received thousands of dollars, according to federal prosecutors.
In February 2016, the deputies voluntarily visited FBI offices in Bakersfield and confessed to stealing the marijuana, according to federal court documents.
They pleaded guilty in May for their roles in the trafficking operation.
That same month, August recorded a video message entitled "I am sorry!" during which he apologized to Kern County residents, law enforcement officials and "anybody I had ever worked with that wears the badge that I disgraced."
Seated with his wife, August talked directly to the camera during the nearly 7-minute YouTube video, saying Satan was "playing games" with him.
"I made a horrible decision," he said. "It was nobody else's fault. Nobody influenced me to do it. I made that decision based on Satan playing games with me and making me feel like I was prideful and unable to go to family members for help."
Before Monday's sentencing, August's close friends, relatives and former coworkers submitted letters to the court, pleading for leniency in the sentencing process.
In one letter, Kern County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Wonderly described working closely with August and Penney on SWAT and narcotics teams.
"I do not judge people by mistakes they have made. I have never lived that way and I was never trained that way," Wonderly wrote. "Mistakes by Logan and Derrick do not define them and will never compare to the amazing achievements they have accomplished in their lives."
August's attorney, David Torres, said his client does not plan to work in law enforcement again. August is running a private personal training business and has been organizing fundraising events for local charities, Torres said.
"It was obvious to the court that Mr. August was genuinely remorseful for the acts he committed and the taint he brought upon fellow law enforcement officers," Torres said. "Nevertheless, [the judge] gave this young man an extraordinary opportunity to give back to his community by performing 1,500 hours of community service."
2:45 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from August's attorney.