How We Got Here

Kern Corruption - Background

This all started in 2011.

Damacio Diaz was at the top of his career.

He had a new assignment on a drug task force and production of a Disney film based on his upbringing in McFarland was underway.

But the veteran Bakersfield police officer soon found himself on the other side of the law.

From the red carpet to the grey bar motel.

Damacio Diaz spent the better part of the last seven years in the spotlight.

“You don’t go from being the kind of person that I am and that I was to ending up in handcuffs in a courtroom overnight,” said Diaz.

The ex-officer now in federal prison for committing the same crimes he was assigned to prevent.

Based on his own admissions, Diaz began stealing and selling drugs from the Bakersfield Police Department evidence room in 2011.

But he didn’t act alone.

“I apologize to the citizens of Bakersfield for betraying the trust they had placed in me,” said Mara.
Patrick Mara was also at the top of his game, awarded Exceptional Officer of the Year by the Kern County Law Enforcement Foundation in June 2012.

Just one week later, Mara says things changed.

Officers Enter Pleas

“Things snowballed out of control, pretty rapidly, and before I knew it. I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Mara.

Mara and Diaz – partners on the street and in crime. Working together for more than a year, stealing and selling drugs, making thousands of dollars off the books.

February 2015, it all came to a head.

Nine days after the Bakersfield premiere of McFarland USA, the BPD put Diaz on administrative leave.
It happened as a federal grand jury indicted Diaz’s informant, Guillermo Magallanes and two other Bakersfield men on drug charges.

Nine months later, in November 2015, Diaz was arrested for narcotics trafficking conspiracy, bribery and tax charges.

Six months later, Mara agreed to plead guilty to federal drug charges.

“Patrick signed this morning a plea agreement accepting responsibility for his conduct in this case,” said Mara’s attorney Fred Gagliardini.

As federal investigators built the case, they spoke with Derrick Penney, a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy who was close friends with Mara.

Penney encouraged Mara to come clean, but before Mara spoke with investigators, Penney had some of his own admissions.

Deputies Sentenced

“I made a single bad mistake,” said Derrick Penney.

Penney and his partner, Logan August, admitted to using their department-issued keys to access a KCSO evidence facility where they stole marijuana.

The crimes of the dishonest deputies and corrupt cops had a connection – Mara helped Penney and August sell the stolen drugs.

All four men accepted plea deals with minimal sentences for crimes they committed while they were trusted to protect and serve.

“The judge saw something and I’m just appreciative of that because I get a second chance with my kids a get a second chance as a husband and a community member of Kern County,” said August.

August and Penney were sentenced to probation and community service.

Both Diaz and Mara are serving five-year sentences in federal prison.

Diaz is scheduled to be released June 2021.

Mara is expected to be released May 2020 – nearly a year earlier than initially reported.

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