A former Fullerton police sergeant has been sentenced for filing a false report in an attempt to protect a former city manager from an impaired driving charge.
Rodger Jeffrey Corbett, 48, was given a pre-trial diversion sentence on Feb. 22 by an Orange County Superior Court judge.
It allows the former sergeant to have his record completely expunged in one year if he completes 80 hours of community service, pays $500 to a victim witness, and agrees to no longer work in law enforcement.
The case dates back to November 2016, when former Fullerton city manager Joseph Felz was involved in a car accident while under the influence. When police arrived, they found Felz attempting to drive his vehicle away from the scene, and observed signs of intoxication.
Corbett, who was assigned to handle the investigation, conducted a cursory examination and concluded Felz was not driving under the influence of alcohol. Corbett then drove Felz home and wrote in a later police report that Felz was not intoxicated.
Despite Corbett’s report, the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office filed a misdemeanor driving under the influence charge against Felz. He later pled guilty and admitted he was intoxicated while driving.
Prosecutors originally charged Corbett with a felony for lying in the police report, but a new law that went into effect Jan. 1 gives judges discretion to put defendants in pre-trial diversion even if prosecutors object, which they did in Corbett’s case.
“The judge can reduce felony charges to misdemeanor, and then as a misdemeanor, they're eligible for pre-trial diversion with very few exceptions, even misdemeanor DUI is eligible for pretrial diversion,” Kimberly Edds, OCDA spokesperson, told The Epoch Times.
OCDA Todd Spitzer said police officers who abuse their power need to be held accountable given the responsibility they're entrusted with.
“As prosecutors, we are filing charges that hold police officers who break the law accountable,” Spitzer said in a prepared statement. “But those attempts to hold peace officers accountable are handcuffed by efforts by the state Legislature and the bench to downgrade these crimes to a point where it is as if they never happened.
“Law enforcement officers wield incredible power, and when they abuse that power and engage in cover-ups and perpetuate different systems of justice for people based on their political connections, they must be held accountable.”
Edds said that if Corbett had been convicted of a felony instead of the pre-trial diversion, he could have faced up to three years in jail.
The OCDA’s office said it couldn't speak to the relationship between Corbett and Felz or if the two made any type of deal in exchange for Corbett writing the false police report.