The Orange County district attorney's office said Wednesday that California Highway Patrol Officer Joshua Blackburn could spend more than 25 years in state prison if he is convicted of stealing more than 40 kilograms of cocaine valued at $1 million.
Judge Cheryl Leininger set bail at $4 million during Blackburn's first court appearance Wednesday. She also required Blackburn to show that any money used to post bail was earned through legitimate sources.
Blackburn attended the hearing by videoconference from Men's Central Jail wearing a yellow jumpsuit. He hung his head through much of the proceeding. "This is a very difficult situation," said his attorney, John D. Barnett.
The judge granted Barnett's request to delay entering a plea until Jan. 9. Blackburn is accused of stealing the cocaine from an evidence locker in the Santa Ana office of the Highway Patrol hours before it was discovered missing Friday. There were signs of forced entry, authorities said.
Blackburn allegedly sold 86 grams and hid the remainder -- although all of it was later recovered, prosecutors said.
The Santa Ana police and the district attorney's office investigated the theft and arrested Blackburn about 24 hour hours after the cocaine was discovered missing, district attorney spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder said.
Blackburn was not involved when the cocaine was originally seized in another case, Schroeder said.
Barnett said that Blackburn has worked for the CHP for six years and is the father of four children. Court records show that he separated from his wife several years ago.