Former Bakersfield police detective Mara gets 5 years for drug dealing

Patrick Mara, a former detective with the Bakersfield Police Department, leaves the federal courthouse in Fresno, Calif., Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, after he was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

A former Bakersfield police detective was sentenced Monday to five years in prison on a guilty plea of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Patrick Mara was sentenced in federal court in Fresno a few weeks after his former partner, Damacio Diaz, got five years in prison for taking bribes as a police officer, stealing and selling confiscated meth, and filing a fraudulent tax return.

Mara was implicated after Diaz was indicted last fall. After that, Mara retired from the police force and admitted to selling 20 pounds of confiscated drugs.

The U.S. Attorney's Office was seeking a sentence ranging from 262-327 months in prison, but the judge had discretion. Mara would've served at least 21 years in prison if the prosecution had its way.

Mara must surrender to begin serving his sentence Dec. 5.

"Obviously, I've had a lot of time to wait and sit and sleepless nights," Mara said after the sentencing. "As much as I'm not excited about the thought of being away from my family, I'm relieved at least this part of it is over."

In court, Mara's father, wife and two friends spoke on his behalf. They talked about the good things he has done.

Mara's wife said he was consumed by his work in the Bakersfield Police Department and worked nonstop once he was in a special drug enforcement unit.

She said he wasn't home much. That led to his drinking and stress for their marriage. But, Kristin Mara said her husband returned to being a devoted family man after he left the narcotics unit.

She said the couple's two children need their father at home and urged the judge to have compassion on Mara.

Mara also asked the judge for mercy.

After the sentencing, Mara said he had "folded to temptation" during the time he was with the special drug unit.

"And now I've got to deal with the consequences of those actions," he said.

Mara's first comments were an apology to the Police Department and his former fellow officers.

"I'm ashamed of my actions, ashamed of myself," Mara said. "I apologize to the citizens of Bakersfield for betraying the trust that they had placed in me."

Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green said her office has reviewed cases worked on by Mara and Diaz while they were involved in criminal activity. She said her office will send letters to defendants or attorneys involved in 64 of those cases.

Diaz has alleged widespread corruption within the Police Department, and five other Bakersfield officers were put on leave for investigation into allegations of wrongdoing tied to the situation with Diaz and Mara.

No charges were brought against any of the other officers.

Police Department officials were joined Monday afternoon at their headquarters by acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert and other law enforcement officials to address the allegations of corruption. They asserted no other officers were found to be involved in the criminal conduct.

After his sentencing, Mara also stressed that only he and Diaz took part in their crimes. He said the other officers who had been put on administrative leave had no role in this.

"They were unknowing and unwitting participants in any of the stuff that happened, and they were absolutely, in no way, part of what Damacio and I did," Mara said.

He said some patrol officers were asked to pull over certain vehicles, but they had no idea what he and Diaz were doing.

"These were typical of car stops that narcotics detectives would have patrol units do," Mara said. "They would show up, and we'd take possession of what was in the car."

Judge Lawrence O'Neill said he had to weigh the good things Mara had done and consider the "very serious" crimes he committed.

"Would he commit another crime?" the judge said. "I don't think so."

O'Neill said Mara's sentence also needed to be consistent with the sentence for Diaz.

But he said public officials put in a position of trust cannot walk away when they violate that trust.

"This scenario is a horrible, horrible tragedy," the judge said.

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