Ongoing criminal investigation into East Contra Costa cops affects the criminal justice system

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ANTIOCH — An ongoing criminal investigation into Antioch and Pittsburgh police officers has led to more than a dozen terminations in federal court cases and an ongoing review of Contra Costa County lawsuits in all cases based on police reports.

Last month, federal prosecutors took the extremely rare step of agreeing to dismiss felony charges against four people who had already pleaded guilty in their cases and were awaiting sentencing. The four defendants had pleaded guilty to possession of firearms as criminals in the city of Antioch – cases that depended on the word of Antioch officers.

The cases were among dismissals approved by the U.S. Attorney’s Office since late March, when authorities announced they were investigating potential “crimes of moral turpitude” committed by an unknown number of Antioch and Pittsburgh officers, according to two sources with direct knowledge. Multiple law enforcement sources said the charges relate to alleged involvement with cocaine and steroids, but federal authorities are also looking into fatal use-of-force incidents by some of the officers.

A spokesperson for the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office told the Bay Area News Group that the agency is “actively evaluating the cases of Antioch and Pittsburgh agents who are under criminal investigation by the FBI.” and discloses information that could impact those lawsuits or disputes. the credibility of agents with defense attorneys.

“In order to continue to pursue these cases, it will be necessary to make certain disclosures consistent with ethical obligations of discovery,” Contra Costa DA spokesman Ted Asregadoo said in an email. “The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office continues to balance the integrity of the ongoing investigation, with the duty to disclose information favorable to an accused, as well as the due process rights of the officers involved.”

In federal court, charges were dismissed against Eric Meals, Quincy Mason, Bernard Sices and Kardell Smith, after they all pleaded guilty to firearms charges carrying a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. according to the archives.

In Smith’s case, officers Brock Marcotte, Qumaine Murphy and Morteza Amiri arrested him. Amiri claimed to have seen Smith throw a gun through a window of his apartment on Sycamore Drive. Meals was arrested in July 2020 by an Antioch officer whose name is not used in court records on suspicion of possessing a homemade pistol without a serial number, according to court records.

The independent prosecutions of Sices and Mason involved the same arresting officer, Eric Rombough, who claimed that on June 7, 2019, Sices ran away from him during an attempted arrest and threw a gun at him. grass while Rombough pursued him. Rombough tackled Sices and recovered the weapon, prosecutors said in court records. In Mason’s case, Rombough arrested him in December 2020 on suspicion of possessing two firearms while on parole, at an Antioch residence on East 6th Street. Other officers were present and DNA linked him to the firearms, according to court records.

But on April 13 – just three weeks after Mason pleaded guilty – prosecutors moved to overturn the conviction, writing that the US Attorney’s Office “has uncovered evidence that undermines its confidence in the conviction in this case.” It was the exact same wording used in the other dismissals, according to court records.

Rombough was one of the four officers who shot and killed Guadalupe Zavala, 57, during a seven-hour confrontation last January.

Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford did not respond to requests for comment, including an inquiry into whether Rombough, Marcotte or Amiri were among the officers currently on leave as part of the criminal investigation.

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