Former Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster’s trial on federal drug conspiracy charges has been set for May 9, 2017 – more than two years after he and a handful of others were arrested.
Foster and the other defendants were in federal court in Fresno on Monday. They will be due in court again on Sept. 19 for a status hearing. Foster was Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer’s second-in-command, and many believed he would one day succeed Dyer. He resigned shortly after his arrest last year.
Judge Sheila K. Oberto was hesitant to grant Foster attorney Marshall Hodgkins’ request for the late trial date, noting it was more than two years after the case’s arraignment.
Hodgkins argued that such a late date was necessary given the volume of evidence – more than 40,000 pages – turned over to him by the government. He also noted that the evidence contained in Foster’s police station computer had not been turned over yet.
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Foster and the four other defendants represented in court Monday – Ricky Reynolds, Jennifer Donabedian, and nephews Randy Flowers and Iran Dennis “Denny” Foster – were all offered plea deals that each seems poised to reject in favor of a trial.
“I believe Mr. Foster is going to trial,” Hodgkins said during the hearing. “I don’t think I can do any better than May 9.”
Two defendants – Rafael Guzman Jr. and Sarah Ybarra – already have accepted plea deals with jail time.
The other defense attorneys agreed with Hodgkins, and the government made no objection. Oberto relented, granting the proposed date.
Two other defendants – Rafael Guzman Jr. and Sarah Ybarra – already have accepted plea deals with jail time.
In May, Guzman pleaded guilty to conspiring with Foster to sell heroin.
Guzman agreed with federal prosecutors that on Dec. 24, 2014, Foster contacted him “to acquire heroin on behalf of a third party.” He claims that Foster was trying to buy heroin for him and sell it to a third party, who ultimately canceled the deal in February.
As part of the plea agreement, Guzman pleaded guilty to only conspiracy to distribute and/or possess with intent to distribute heroin. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining two charges against him.
Ybarra pleaded in April to conspiracy to distribute/possess marijuana.
Foster is charged with conspiring with Flowers to distribute oxycodone, a prescription painkiller that is addictive. Flowers is further charged with being a felon in possession of three firearms. Flowers is Foster’s nephew.
The 13-page indictment also charges Foster and Guzman with conspiring to distribute heroin.
In a third alleged conspiracy, Foster is charged with conspiring with Reynolds, Donabedian, 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 is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Each defendant is charged with at least one count of using a cellphone in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Finally, Denny Foster is charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.
Donabedian is Denny Foster’s girlfriend. Ybarra is friends with Donabedian and Denny Foster. It’s unclear how Guzman and Reynolds fit in any of the relationships.