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Former Bakersfield police detective pleads guilty in federal drug case

Former Bakersfield Police Detective Patrick Mara leaves federal court in Fresno, Calif., on Monday, June 20, 2016, after pleading guilty in a federal drug case. (KBAK/ KBFX photo/ Steve Mills)

A former Bakersfield Police Department detective formally pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Patrick Mara, 36, who retired last month, was the partner of another former detective, Damacio Diaz, who previously pleaded guilty to three charges tied to methamphetamine, bribery and tax fraud.

Mara appeared briefly Monday morning before a judge in federal court in Fresno. The charge for which he pleaded guilty carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for mid-October, and the judge has discretion in the penalty.

Prosecutors are recommending a lighter sentence because of Mara's cooperation.

Mara admitted to selling 20 pounds of confiscated drugs.

The case started with an indictment last fall of Diaz, who was already known as one of the real-life inspirations for the movie "McFarland, USA." He was a member of the famed McFarland cross-country teams of the 1980s, and he was portrayed by an actor in the movie "McFarland, USA," starring Kevin Costner.

As a part of Diaz's agreement with federal prosecutors, he promised to implicate six other officers, including his old partner Mara.

Soon after Diaz's attorney announced his client would take a plea deal, Mara came forward and issued a public apology.

"Four years ago I put myself in a compromising situation and said 'yes' when I should have said 'no,'" Mara said during a May 31 news conference in Bakersfield. "Things snowballed out of control pretty rapidly, and before I knew it, I didn't know what I was doing ... I tarnished your badge in a way that I never intended."

The other five officers are on paid administrative leave and are being investigated for potential policy violations. The Police Department refuses to release their names.

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