Fresno Deputy Police Chief Gets Four Years in Prison For Selling Drugs

Keith Foster lacks remorse and has not accepted responsibility for conspiring to peddle heroin and marijuana while employed as deputy chief of the Fresno Police Department, a judge said Monday in U.S. District Court.

Foster, 53, also committed perjury on the witness stand during his trial in May, Judge Anthony Ishii said.

In addition, Ishii ruled that Foster obstructed justice and violated his position of trust.

Yet, the judge sentenced Foster to 48 months in prison, when the prosecution sought a sentence of 78 months.

In announcing the punishment, Ishii said there’s a perception in society that “people with money or in high positions get a break.” But the judge said he had balance Foster’s positive contributions to the community, which include nearly 30 year of police work.

Ishii also noted Foster’s strong family ties and his lack of a criminal record before his conviction.

Foster stood quietly next to his attorney, Michael McKneely, when his sentence was announced. He has to surrender to federal authorities by Jan. 13. Outside court, Foster, surrounded by family and friends, appeared more upbeat, vowing to appeal his conviction and sentence.

The 48-month sentence is similar to the punishment offered in a plea deal that Foster rejected prior to going to trial.

On May 23, a U.S. District Court jury found Foster guilty of conspiring to distribute heroin and marijuana. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on six other charges, including distribution of oxycodone.

E. Marshall Hodgkins, Foster’s lawyer, called the result “a tragedy.” He said Foster was offered a plea deal of four years in prison during the trial, but turned it down.

The verdict put a dark cloud on the Fresno Police Department, where Foster rose through the ranks to become Chief Jerry Dyer’s likely successor, and put a damper on Foster’s image as a role model to the city’s west side community.

On Monday, Dyer acknowledged the impact on his department: “This has been a very painful chapter in the history of the Fresno Police Department, and for me personally. It is my hope that we are able to put this behind us, learn from it, and never to be repeated again.”

In court on Monday, Foster told the judge that humans make mistakes and jurors in his case made a mistake. He also said his conduct did not rise to the level of criminal misconduct.

McKneely sought a sentence of five months in prison and five more months in a halfway house or home detention for Foster. Ishii, however, said that sentence would not be appropriate, ruling that Foster played “a significant role” in three conspiracies to sell heroin, marijuana and oxycodone.

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