Ongoing criminal investigation into East Contra Costa cops is affecting criminal justice system

Betty Q. Hixson

ANTIOCH — An ongoing criminal investigation into police officers from Antioch and Pittsburg has led to more than a dozen dismissals in federal court cases and an ongoing review of Contra Costa County prosecutions in any case that relied on reports from the officers.

Federal prosecutors last month made the extremely rare move of agreeing to dismiss serious felony charges against four people who’d already pleaded guilty in their cases and were awaiting sentencing. All four defendants had pleaded guilty to possessing firearms as felons in the city of Antioch — cases that hinged on the word of Antioch officers.

The cases were among the dismissals approved by the U.S. Attorney’s office since late March, when authorities announced they were probing potential “crimes of moral turpitude” committed by an unspecified number of Antioch and Pittsburg officers, according to two sources with firsthand knowledge. Multiple law enforcement sources have said the charges pertain to alleged involvement with cocaine and steroids, but that federal authorities are also reviewing fatal use-of-force incidents committed 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 the Antioch and Pittsburg officers who are subject to the FBI’s criminal investigation” and is disclosing information that could impact those prosecutions or challenge the officers’ credibility to defense attorneys.

“In order to continue to prosecute those cases, it will be necessary to make certain disclosures in accordance with ethical discovery obligations,” 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 favorable information to a defendant, along with due process rights of the implicated officers.”

In federal court, charges were dismissed against Eric Meals, Quincy Mason, Bernard Sices and Kardell Smith, after they’d all pleaded guilty to gun charges that carry a 10-year maximum prison term, records show.

In Smith’s case, Officers Brock Marcotte, Quamaine 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 isn’t used in court records, on suspicion of possessing a homemade pistol with no serial number, court records show.

Both Sices’ and Mason’s unrelated prosecutions involved the same arresting officer, Eric Rombough, who claimed that on June 7, 2019, Sices ran from him during an attempted stop and tossed a pistol onto the 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 guns, according to court records.

Felony charges dropped, DA review underway amid ongoing criminal investigation into East Contra Costa cops

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