From: San Jose Mercury News
By Gary Peterson, Contra Costa Times 5/2/14
MARTINEZ — A Concord K-9 police officer who resigned after being arrested and charged with stealing prescription drugs from the elderly pleaded no contest to five counts in Contra Costa Superior Court on Friday and received a sentence of 2½ years.
As part of the plea agreement, Matthew Switzer will spend six months in County Jail, with the other two years of his sentence suspended pending his successful completion of a licensed, secure residential drug-treatment program.
“This negotiation gives him a fighting chance to beat his addiction,” said Harry Stern, Switzer’s attorney, after the hearing in Judge Bruce C. Mills’ courtroom.
“This gets the point across that what he did was wrong, and that being a police officer did not place him above the law,” said deputy district attorney Barry Grove. “The ball’s in his court now. He’s getting the help he needs.”
Switzer, a 12-year veteran of the department, was arrested after Concord police were tipped off that he was stealing drugs from residents of a seniors complex. He was charged with two counts of first-degree burglary, one count of second-degree burglary, one count of fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs and one count of elder abuse. He was held on $480,000 bail.
Stern, shortly after Switzer was arrested, said the “well-respected” officer became addicted to pain killers after an on-the-job injury. Grove said Switzer used his status as a police officer, sometimes with the aid of his dog, to steal prescription drugs to feed his addiction.
For most of Friday’s hearing, Switzer stood quietly in a prisoner enclosure. When the hearing was complete, he made a spontaneous statement.
“I apologize to the court,” he said, “and especially to the victims, my family and my relatives.”
“I’m extremely proud of him,” said Stern, whose firm specializes in representing peace officers. “This is a bold, courageous step toward beating his addiction. I’m confident he’s going to win.”
Grove, who said after Switzer’s second hearing that “I absolutely hate having to” prosecute a police officer, seemed to feel empathy for the former officer.
“It’s no easy thing having felony strikes on your record,”Grove said. “And it’s not an easy thing being a peace office serving time in County Jail.”