Disgraced former Bakersfield Police Department detective Damacio Diaz, one of the real-life heroes of the movie “McFarland USA,” was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Fresno to five years in federal prison – a far more lenient sentence than prosecutors had urged – for a litany of offenses, including drug trafficking, taking bribes and lying on his tax return.
Just two weeks before he was placed on leave last November, Diaz posed for photos on the red carpet at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.
He was there to attend the world premiere of Disney’s “McFarland USA” that chronicled the 1987 state championship McFarland High School cross country team, on which Diaz and two of his brothers competed.
Diaz pleaded guilty last spring as part of a plea agreement that became public in May. He also was indicted on charges of disclosing wiretap information to a criminal partner and interfering with a criminal investigation, but those charges were dismissed in the plea agreement.
Judge Lawrence O’Neill indicated during the two-hour sentencing hearing that the case was among the most difficult he has encountered in his years on the bench.
The hearing included impassioned appeals by Diaz’s brother, wife and daughter.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office recommended a sentence of between 17 and 22 years, but the judge had discretion.
Read more at The Bakersfield Californian.