Crime

Former Fresno police detective Kumagai gets prison time for taking bribe from suspected drug dealer

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Derik Kumagai was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

• Kumagai’s attorney argued for less time, citing other similar cases around the nation.

• Prosecutors said the sentence was already a “discount.”

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Former Fresno police detective Derik Carson Kumagai will spend two years in federal prison in what prosecutors said was a “discount” sentence for taking a $20,000 bribe from a suspected drug dealer.

Kumagai, 41, also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii, along with co-defendant Saykham Somphoune, to pay close to $14,000 in restitution to the FBI. Kumagai will also be on probation for three years after his release.

Ishii ordered Kumagai to report to either his assigned prison or to U.S. Marshals at Fresno’s federal courthouse on June 12.

E. Marshall Hodgkins, who represented Kumagai, said he wasn’t surprised by the sentence.

“The evidence was pretty devastating,” Hodgins said.

Still, in a report to Ishii, Hodgkins argued for a lesser prison term for Kumagai, using sentences from similar cases involving law enforcement officials in other parts of the country.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant Rabenn argued that Kumagai was already getting a deal. The federal probation report recommended more than three years in prison, and the government knocked an extra six months off of its initial 30-month recommendation.

“Anything lower than the 24 months, which is already a discount ... I think would be unacceptable in this case,” Rabenn said.

He told Ishii that because it was a public corruption case, the need for deterrence was important.

“In this case, we have what was clearly a perversion of the law enforcement process, of the confidential enforcement process utilized by the Fresno Police Department, and the defendant’s ongoing and extensive contacts with an individual which the government contends is a large-scale marijuana trafficker,” Rabenn said.

Ishii agreed.

Court documents say in April 2012, federal law enforcement officials began investigating a group of Fresno-area individuals suspected of growing marijuana and exporting it to other parts of the state and the nation. Somphoune and the suspected drug dealer were among those being investigated.

In October and November of 2013, Kumagai and Somphoune met with the drug dealer and told him he was part of a federal investigation. The two told the dealer they could close the investigation if he paid a bribe.

On Nov. 6, 2013, Kumagai — who had joined the Fresno Police Department in mid-2000 and at the time was assigned to the vice intelligence unit — accepted the bribe, court documents say.

Kumagai, who initially sought a $40,000 bribe, also told the dealer that he could arrange for him to be signed up as a confidential informant. That later happened, though it was done by Fresno police detectives other than Kumagai.

Hodgkins said Kumagai immediately admitted responsibility. On Monday he told Ishii that Kumagai was one of his few clients in 38 years of law practice who “has admitted his involvement completely ... As I stand in front of you I know that there has got to be punishment. I know that.” But Hodgkins argued that, under the circumstances, it should be less than the two years Rebenn recommended.

Somphoune, 41, was sentenced after Kumagai to time served, which is 13 months and 17 days, said his attorney, Mark A. Broughton. Kumagai has been free during the legal proceedings.

Hodgins said Kumagai has been raising cattle since his arrest and departure from the Fresno Police Department.

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