A federal grand jury indicted former Fresno deputy police chief Keith Foster and six others on Thursday, charging them with a variety of drug-trafficking offenses involving marijuana, oxycodone and heroin.
Also Thursday, one of Fresno’s two U.S. district judges recused himself from the case because of his acquaintance with Foster, including appearances together at crime prevention events.
The indictment charges Foster, a law enforcement veteran of almost 30 years who resigned last week from the Fresno Police Department, with participating in three separate conspiracies to distribute different controlled substances over the course of the past year.
Foster, 51, is charged with conspiring with co-defendant Randy Flowers to distribute oxycodone. They 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.
The 13-page indictment also charges Keith Foster and Rafael Guzman with conspiring to distribute heroin. Keith Foster is also charged with conspiring with Ricky Reynolds, Jennifer Donabedian, Sarah Ybarra and Denny Foster to distribute marijuana. Reynolds is separately charged with manufacturing marijuana, and both Reynolds and Denny Foster are charged individually in various counts alleging distribution of marijuana. Denny Foster also is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Each defendant is charged in at least one count with using a cellphone in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Finally, Denny Foster and Guzman are charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.
All of the defendants are from Fresno, except for Reynolds, who is from Shasta Lake. All except Reynolds are scheduled to be arraigned Friday on the indictment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stanley Boone in Fresno. Reynolds hasn’t been arrested. Authorities are trying to arrange for his surrender to federal law enforcement officials.
Thursday’s indictment says Reynolds manufactured marijuana in Shasta County and that he had 50 or more marijuana plants.
After initial pleadings before a magistrate judge, the case will move to U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. The case was initially assigned to U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill in a random draw, but O’Neill on Thursday recused himself from the case. In a short federal court filing, O’Neill said he and Keith Foster “have been professionally acquainted for numerous years, having served together at many crime and gang prevention events as lecturers and presenters, and in more recent years have shared meals perhaps five times, discussing such things as crime trends, recent legal developments, rehabilitation options and crime prevention methodology.”
O’Neill wrote that he could be fair, but “the appearance of impropriety alone” led him to remove himself from the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melanie L. Alsworth and Dawrence “Duce” W. Rice are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, most of the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the counts involving heroin and oxycodone. In addition, the marijuana charges can bring additional time and fines, as can the gun and cellphone charges. Foster, who oversaw patrol operations for the department’s four police districts, faces at least 25 years if convicted.
E. Marshall Hodgkins, who is representing Keith Foster, could not be reached for comment.
All of the defendants other than Reynolds were arrested March 26. At a court hearing following their arrests, Foster and the other five defendants pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute and/or possess with the intent to distribute oxycodone, heroin and marijuana. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Oberto then allowed Foster and Donabedian to remain free as the case moves through the courts. The other four defendants were ordered to remain in jail.
The indictment says Flowers, 48, was convicted of possession of cocaine in 1989 and being a felon in possession of a firearm in 1994.