A key issue in the approaching Keith Foster criminal trial has been cleared up: His lawyer has stipulated that Fresno’s former deputy police chief was caught on federal wiretaps talking about drugs.
Prosecutors contend the wiretaps are key evidence against Foster and his alleged co-conspirators in a wide-ranging trafficking ring that ended Foster’s career in April 2015 as Chief Jerry Dyer’s No. 2 man in the Fresno Police Department.
In one recording, Foster contacted Rafael Guzman Jr. and asked him to acquire heroin. Guzman then asked Foster what quality of heroin did he want to purchase.
“The very best,” Foster said, according to Guzman’s plea agreement that led to him going to prison.
Though the wiretap recordings could be damaging evidence, Fresno attorney E. Marshall Hodgkins, who is defending Foster, said Friday that he stipulated to “the authenticity and admissibility of them” because he said portions of the wiretaps show Foster is innocent.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Hodgkins said.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Fresno defense attorney E. Marshall Hodgkins
A federal indictment, unsealed April 9, 2015, charges Foster and six others with participating in three separate conspiracies to distribute different controlled substances.
So far, four defendants have taken plea deals.
A criminal complaint charges Foster with conspiring with his nephew, Randy Flowers, to distribute oxycodone, a prescription painkiller that is addictive. Foster and Flowers also are charged individually in four separate counts to distribute or possess with the intent to distribute oxycodone. Flowers is further charged with being a felon in possession of three firearms.
Foster faces other charges as well: conspiring with Guzman to distribute heroin; and conspiring with Ricky Reynolds, Sarah Ybarra, Jennifer Donabedian and his nephew, Denny Foster, to distribute marijuana. Reynolds is separately charged with manufacturing marijuana.
Foster, Flowers and Reynolds also are charged with at least one count of using a cellphone in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.
Court records say Ybarra, Donabedian, Guzman and Denny Foster have accepted plea deals to avoid a trial. Keith Foster, Flowers and Reynolds are scheduled to stand trial on May 9.
Hodgkins has declined to reveal Foster’s defense to the charges.
A federal indictment, unsealed April 9, 2015, charges Foster and six others with participating in three separate conspiracies to distribute controlled substances
Prosecutors, however, filed a motion on March 13 that asks Judge Anthony Ishii to admit the wiretaps as evidence. “The government plans to play recorded conversations between the defendants and co-conspirators that were obtained during the wiretaps in this case, and provide transcripts of the audio recordings to the jurors to help them follow along,” the motion says.
To authenticate who’s talking on the wiretaps, prosecutors were going to produce as evidence “certified telephone company records showing that Keith Foster, Randy Flowers, and Iran Dennis Foster were the subscribers of the phone numbers on the phones wiretapped.”
In addition, prosecutors were prepared to present testimony from law enforcement agents and/or a co-defendant “who is familiar with and can identify the voices of the defendants.”
Instead of opposing the motion, Hodgkins on March 27 stipulated that the wiretapped recordings could be used as evidence in the trial. Hodgkins said Friday he agreed to the stipulation because prosecutors also agreed to allow him to show jurors telephone text messages from the defendants’ phones that are favorable to Foster’s defense to the charges.
Court records say federal investigators used wiretaps to intercept multiple telephone calls and text messages between the defendants in which they discussed drug dealing.
Foster, 53, has rejected a plea agreement that would have resulted in 46 months, or nearly four years, in prison.
In one exchange, Keith Foster called Denny Foster and asked him if he could get “some units” for his “boy,” the court documents say. A unit is code for pounds of marijuana, prosecutors contend.
Denny Foster told his uncle he could get the marijuana and told his uncle to deposit the money in Denny Foster’s bank account, the documents say. But Keith Foster didn’t like the arrangement. “I don’t like dealing with banks,” Keith Foster said, according to Denny Foster’s plea agreement.
In November 2015, Ybarra was sentenced to a year in prison for mailing marijuana through a package-delivery company. Guzman was sentenced in October last year to 40 months in prison. In December Donabedian, who is Denny Foster’s girlfriend, was sentenced to a year of probation and 100 hours of community service for her role in the criminal enterprise. Denny Foster, who has yet to be sentenced, faces up to 57 months, or nearly five years, in prison.
Prosecutors say Keith Foster, who once oversaw patrol operations for the entire city, faces at least 25 years in prison and stiff fines if convicted.
Because he believes in his innocence, Foster, 53, has rejected a plea agreement that would have resulted in 46 months, or nearly four years, in prison, his lawyer said. “We are prepared to go to trial and put on a valid defense,” Hodgkins said.