A veteran Berkeley narcotics officer suspected of stealing heroin from an evidence locker for his personal use is likely to be charged criminally in the next week, according to a source close to the case. The source says Sgt. Cary Kent is negotiating a plea arrangement wherein he will plead guilty to felony charges of grand theft and possession of heroin and face up to one year in county jail.
Asked last week if Kent would face criminal charges, Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff would only say, "That's what we're looking at." Orloff confirmed his office was in talks with Kent's attorney to resolve the case.
In January, Berkeley Police Chief Doug Hambleton put Kent on paid administrative leave after he and others became suspicious that the administrative narcotics sergeant was using heroin he stole from evidence envelopes. Feeder has uncovered previously unreported details of what tipped off police brass.
According to a search warrant filed last month by DA investigator Mark Scarlett, Kent's troubles became apparent last September when Lt. Al Yuen returned to supervise the special enforcement unit after finishing another assignment. He noticed that Kent looked "unhealthy," had poor hygiene, and sweated so much that the sergeant sometimes had to "change his clothes in the middle of the day due to a recurring, strong body odor." Other times, Yuen saw Kent coming to work in the same clothes he'd been wearing the day before.
Kent even nodded off at his desk while Yuen was talking to him on more than one occasion, the warrant says. Yuen also groused that Kent wasn't showing up for work on time, and that projects assigned to him went unfinished. When Yuen confronted him about his poor performance and appearance, Kent explained that he had lupus and his medication made him tired.
Kent was one of five officers who had access to the police department's drug vault where contraband seized during busts was kept. In early January, after Kent's supervisors became suspicious, Yuen and others randomly examined fifteen manila evidence envelopes and discovered that most had been tampered with and were missing heroin, the warrant says. In one instance, the drug had been replaced by a broken white pill.
After the audit, Hambleton phoned Kent and ordered him to come to the police station. When Kent didn't show up after half an hour, the chief and others became worried. They called Kent again and he agreed to come to the station as long as he wouldn't be arrested, the warrant says. After turning in his badge and gun, Kent purportedly told the chief, "If you only knew what I was going through; if you only knew the position I was in. I don't want to be an embarrassment to myself, to the department, or to my family. I just want to make it all go away."
Afterward, Hambleton asked the DA to investigate the case along with a Berkeley officer. That joint investigation found that at least 181 evidence envelopes had been tampered with, according to the warrant. A county crime lab found Kent's fingerprints on three evidence items inside a sample of 25 envelopes it looked at. Kent was not supposed to have access to evidence inside the sealed envelopes, the warrant says.
Kent's lawyer, Harry Stern, conceded that the warrant "sets forth a disturbing set of circumstances. ... On the other hand, Sgt. Kent has had a storied career and done great things to make Berkeley a better and safer place," he said.
DA Orloff says the missing evidence didn't compromise any other cases. That's because the H was taken from inactive cases and was scheduled for destruction anyway. A police spokesman says that Kent, who spent nearly twenty years with the department, has retired from the force.
Thou Shalt Not Spin
Concord Mayor Susan Bonilla, a devout Christian, has been the inside fave to succeed outgoing Contra Costa County Supervisor Mark De Saulnier, and enjoys the backing of the local Democratic establishment. But in recent weeks, Bonilla has been spending a lot of time clarifying her views on abortion to skittish Democratic supporters. A few weeks ago, a "statement of faith" purportedly signed by Bonilla surfaced. The statement is a twelve-page document describing the educational philosophy of Berean Christian High School where she teaches and her kid studies.
The statement contains some potentially controversial stuff, such as denying evolution and condemning homosexuality. Here's an excerpt from its "civil government" section: "Magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored, and obeyed, except in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the only Lord of the conscience, the coming Prince of the Kings of the earth." But the key passage, politically speaking, addresses abortion this way: "We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death."
One of Bonilla's liberal opponents, Gary Eberhart, has seized on the school's statement as evidence that the Concord mayor is out of step. "It just doesn't seem like the right district for that ideology," says Eberhart, a board member of the Mt. Diablo Union School District.
Bonilla, meanwhile, sounds irritated by the dustup. The mayor says she didn't sign the 12-page statement that appears on the school's Web site. Rather, as a teacher and parent, she signed a one-page statement of faith that says nothing about abortion, but simply affirms her belief in the Bible as "the only infallible, authoritative, inerrant word of God."
As for abortion, Bonilla says she supports a woman's right to choose as spelled out in Roe v. Wade. "I am proud of my faith," Bonilla tells Feeder. "It is where I draw my personal strength and it's where I get my motivation for public service. Unfortunately, my opponents have deliberately misrepresented and sought to stereotype my personal faith for political purposes."
Eberhart acknowledges that he raised the issue while trying to secure endorsements for himself. Despite Bonilla's insistence that she's pro-choice, Eberhart sounds unconvinced. He questions her support of what he considers anti-choice organizations that discourage pregnant women from having abortions. "It seems to me there's some ambiguity in what's being said," he sniffs.
Eberhart might not be convinced, but other Dems are: State Sen. Tom Torlakson and DeSaulnier reaffirmed their endorsements after Bonilla clarified her position, she says. Supervisor John Gioia, who represents West County, also is satisfied. "My sense is she'd be a good representative for her district," he says.
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