On his way to court Wednesday, Reid Daub passed a San Fernando Valley motel that reminded him of how proud he had always been of his older brother, Ron.
Ronald E. Daub had been a janitor at the Carriage Inn when he saved a baby from a fall. "I remember being so proud of him," said the younger Daub. "He was always a contributor to society. That's what I remember about him. Not what people think now, that he's just a bad cop."
How far his brother had come, Reid thought--through 17 years of service with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and a stint on an elite narcotics unit--to this day when he would be sentenced to prison.
Reid Daub was one of nearly 100 people to pack a federal courtroom where seven men, once considered among the finest deputies in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, received jail sentences for their crimes of skimming drug money and structuring transactions in order to hide it.
"It was difficult to get some time off from work to be here," Daub said, sipping coffee in the courthouse snack bar before the proceeding. "But then I thought, this might be the last time I could see my brother."
Inside the courtroom, the seven defendants sat in the first row with their attorneys, six dressed in brown and gray; a seventh, already remanded to custody, wore prison blues.
The men's relatives sat only an aisle or two away from the federal agents who put together the case that led to their convictions. Two rows of journalists, including a free-lance writer hoping to sell a script idea to Steven Spielberg, furiously scribbled notes. Courtroom artists sketched profiles. A fellow deputy, about to go on trial himself, sat among the crowd.
One man said he had come to watch because other sheriff's deputies once tore down the doors of one of his rental homes, mistakenly thinking drugs were inside. "I just want to see them get their due," he said quietly.
The mood of the courtroom was somber, with most of the onlookers waiting expressionless and in silence. Only the occasional twitching of legs and clenching of fists betrayed deeper emotions.
One by one the sentences were ticked off: five years for Daub and Eufrasio G. Cortez; four years for Terrell H. Amers, Macario M. Duran and James R. Bauder; 4 1/2 years for Daniel M. Garner; two years for John C. Dickenson.
Colleen Bauder, sitting in one of the back rows, looked stricken as an attorney described how her husband would be "vulnerable," his life in "severe danger," in prison with drug dealers he once helped convict.
Bauder was the only defendant to make a statement before his sentencing. He noted that he had the steadfast support of his family. "I apologize to them for enduring this ordeal," he said.
Bauder's wife leaned forward as he spoke. Rubbing her red-rimmed eyes after the hearing, she said bitterly, "I don't think it was fair at all. If only they knew what really happened, they would be shocked."
She would not elaborate.
Cortez's wife, Roxanne, dressed in a brightly flowered suit and high heels, leaned against a marble wall after it was all over. She had heard much about crimes and punishment, but would utter only one word when asked how she felt about the sentencing.
"Surprising," she said with a tight-lipped smile. She walked away on the arm of her husband.
Later, there was a little laughter. Cortez was standing with relatives waiting to head outside into the rain when his umbrella opened before he reached the door. "Don't do that," one relative said smiling. "It's bad luck.
"Can't be too much worse than today, huh?" Cortez said, laughing. The family walked out.
Earlier, Reid Daub had stood upstairs in the hallway shortly after his brother was sentenced to five years in prison. Fingering a cigarette, he seemed almost dazed.
"We're just going to have to go on the best we can with our lives," he said. "It's a crazy thing."
But even though some of their family members seemed shaken, the convicted former deputies seemed to maintain a steely resolve to the end.
"It's out of our hands," Bauder said calmly shortly before he left the courthouse. "The bottom line is there are people in worse situations. My kids don't have cancer. My wife hasn't been killed in a traffic accident. And I'm not ashamed of my conduct."
From the lobby of a courthouse, in the presence of his loved ones, the prospect of prison did not seem so frightening, said Bauder. He said he does not know, however, how he will feel on April 3 when he begins his sentence.
"You'll have to ask me," he said, "the day I step through the gate."
Times staff writer Carol McGraw contributed to this story.