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Deputy in Drug Sting Admits Guilt

In Riverside County, a fake crime scene was videotaped, and a plea to 12 counts including stealing evidence could mean 11 years in prison.

March 23, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A Riverside County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty Monday to 12 drug-related counts including stealing evidence and using methamphetamine and marijuana on duty, crimes that could bring an 11-year prison term.

James J. Reynolds, 33, a seven-year deputy assigned to the Jurupa Valley station, entered the surprise guilty pleas during a preliminary hearing in Riverside. Superior Court Judge Helios J. Hernandez is scheduled to sentence Reynolds on May 20.

"This is his way of accepting personal individual responsibility for everything he did wrong," said Steve Harmon, Reynolds' attorney. "He feels terrible about what he has done and the mistakes he has made, and he is willing to accept whatever comes his way."

Reynolds, wearing a crisp, black suit, declined to comment as he left the courthouse.

Reynolds was arrested July 4, 2003, after being caught stealing about 6 grams of methamphetamine from a "crime scene" in a videotaped sting operation set up to catch him. He was also charged with filing a false police report, of being under the influence of methamphetamine while armed, transporting methamphetamine and trying to tamper with evidence.

The guilty pleas ensure that Reynolds will be fired from the department, said Sheriff Bob Doyle, who added that he officially initiated the process Monday.

"The investigators did a great job; they had a sound case," Doyle said. "It's pleasing to see Deputy Reynolds stand up and take responsibility for his actions. I don't know why he [pleaded guilty], but the fact of the matter is he did what he was charged with."

When Reynolds was first arrested, Doyle placed four other deputies, including Reynolds' wife, on paid administrative leave for allegedly knowing about, but failing to report, Reynolds' criminal conduct.

The Riverside County district attorney has not filed charges against any of the other four deputies. Doyle said the decision not to charge Reynolds' wife, Astrid, was not part of any plea agreement with her husband.

"We would not do that; that's an ethical situation," Doyle said. "You can be assured that if she was culpable to the point of being terminated, we would deal with that. I think [James] Reynolds, with two kids, is saying, 'I want this over; I want to get on with my life.' "

One of the disciplined deputies later resigned and two others remained on paid leave pending an internal investigation, Doyle said. Astrid Reynolds has been interviewed as part of the internal probe and has returned to active duty at the Perris station, a department spokeswoman said.

James Reynolds has completed a drug rehabilitation program and is enrolled in intensive after-care treatment, his attorney said. The guilty pleas were Reynolds' latest effort to illustrate that he had "a strong sense of remorse and is taking steps to change his life for the better," Harmon said.

Harmon said he was instructed by Reynolds to not "quibble" and to stop being "lawyerly" about the case. "Not every client does this.... He feels very badly about being given that position of public trust and breaking that public trust," Harmon said. "Anyone who gets near James Reynolds can see and feel his genuine remorse."

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