Ex-Fresno deputy chief wants his federal drug conviction thrown out. Judges make ruling

An appeals court upheld former Fresno Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster’s federal drug convictions.

Arguing to have his 2017 drug conviction thrown out, Foster claimed there was insufficient evidence in his case, his attorney was ineffective and the court was wrong to deny his request to unseal jury information.

But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Foster’s appeal and upheld the convictions. The ruling was handed down June 20 by a panel of judges.

Foster was convicted and sentenced in 2017 for conspiring to distribute marijuana and heroin. He’s serving a four-year prison sentence in a medium-security federal prison in Colorado.

The court wrote in the decision the evidence in Foster’s case was sufficient to support both convictions and his attorney performed competently. The court also wrote that although Foster may have suspected the jurors read “prejudicial” news articles about his case, speculation doesn’t amount to juror impartiality.

Foster has fought the court at nearly every point in his case. After his sentencing, he asked the judge presiding over his trial, Judge Anthony Ishii, to let him remain free during his appeal. Ishii denied that request.

During sentencing, Ishii said Foster lacked remorse and did not accept responsibility for his crimes. Ishii also said Foster obstructed justice and violated his position of trust as deputy chief of the Fresno Police Department.

Before that, Foster rejected a plea deal similar to the sentence he ended up receiving.

The case against Foster was built on wiretaps and surveillance by agents with the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In the wiretaps, Foster can be heard using street slang to talk about buying drugs, prosecutors said.

A key issue in the trial was whether Foster was acting undercover or “deep undercover,” since police officials were unaware of his conversations on the wiretaps.

But during his trial, Foster’s testimony contradicted his attorney’s defense. Foster testified he was not working undercover, but merely collecting information about drug trafficking for narcotic officers and trying to encourage his codefendants to become police informants.

Foster continues to collect his $93,000 annual pension despite being a convicted felon. After serving 85 percent of his prison term per federal law, he will be on three years of supervised probation where he will have to register as a drug dealer and be unable to have a cellphone unless his probation officer gives him permission. He also will have to complete community service each week until he gets a job.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.