Pubdate: Sat, 16 Jan 2016
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2016 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Monica Vaughan
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


A Yuba County deputy sheriff and narcotics task force agent - the 
subject of two criminal investigations - resigned from his position 
Friday, according to Sheriff Steve Durfor.

When announcing the resignation of Christopher "Mark" Heath, the 
sheriff for the first time commented on the former deputy's alleged actions.

"It's very difficult to find the words to express the outrage and 
sense of betrayal that those of us in law enforcement in Yuba County 
and the region are feeling. He betrayed, in every sense, the ethics 
and professionalism that we stand for," Durfor said.

Heath was arrested Dec. 29 while on vacation in York Co., Pa., along 
with two other Butte County residents for allegedly trafficking 247 
pounds of marijuana. He was released after posting bail in 
Pennsylvania, and was then arrested last week in Butte County on 
suspicion of possession of an unlawful assault rifle.

In addition to the two criminal investigations, the California 
Department of Justice has launched a top-to-bottom audit of the 
Yuba-Sutter narcotics task force, NET-5.

"While there is no evidence to suggest that the marijuana in the 
Pennsylvania incident was from law enforcement seizures or evidence, 
we want to ensure that policies involving internal controls are being 
followed," Durfor said.

"There is no indication that a Yuba County sheriff's deputy or any 
other law enforcement officer was in criminal association with Heath. 
If that is revealed, that will be properly dealt with. There is no 
indication that is the case."

The Yuba and Sutter district attorney's offices are reviewing dozens 
of cases in which Heath was the lead investigator to consider if they 
are still prosecutable. Those who may have allegations about Heath's 
actions as a law enforcement officer can report their complaints to officials.

"Those matters need to be brought to the attention of the sheriff's 
office and to the district attorney's office," Durfor said.

Heath's arrest prompted national headlines and contributes to general 
feelings of distrust of law enforcement in Yuba-Sutter, which Durfor 
said he understands, but hopes to repair.

"I can understand the public being upset. In all sincerity, I 
completely understand the public's anger and suspicions. There is no 
one that is more angry and incensed by what we have learned about his 
activities than those of us at the Yuba County Sheriff's Office and 
in law enforcement," Durfor said.

"It's a never-ending work in progress to establish the public's 
trust. There is a sentiment of distrust and resentment toward law 
enforcement more than I've seen in my career. I'm certain that 
Heath's actions contribute to that and tarnishes public perception."

Upon his arrest, Heath was immediately placed on paid administrative leave.

Durfor said he was frustrated with that situation, too, but his hands 
were tied in this case and in previous cases when deputies have been 
placed on administrative leave following criminal charges.

"There are times and circumstances where I have shared the feeling 
that I don't want to pay them, but I am bound by law to pay them. We 
have no authority to not pay him," Durfor said.

Heath was hired as a correctional officer in November 2003, was 
promoted to deputy sheriff in January 2007 and has been assigned to 
NET5 for three years.

Durfor said there was never any indication Heath was engaged in 
illegal or unethical behavior prior to arrest, and if he had known 
"we would have been investigating to the fullest extent."
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