Detective whose story told in McFarland USA pleads guilty

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — An ex-detective who had been on the championship 1987 track team depicted in the movie “McFarland USA” pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery and drug charges while he was with the Bakersfield Police Department.

Damacio Diaz was arrested in November and charged with assisting a drug dealer and providing him with names of police informants, and with trafficking drugs that had been seized for evidence. Prosecutors said he took over $15,000 in bribes from 2012 until early last year.

The 44-year-old Diaz was a 17-year veteran of the department. He had been on administrative leave at the time of his arrest. It wasn’t immediately clear when he left the department.

Diaz pleaded guilty in federal court in Fresno to charges including bribery and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $10 million fine at his sentencing scheduled for September.

“McFarland USA” was released in 2015 and tells the story of coach Jim White, played by Kevin Costner, and his transformation of a running team in McFarland, a tiny farming town about 25 miles outside of Bakersfield.

Diaz and his brothers were members of the team that won the state championship.

He apologized to the town of McFarland, the city of Bakersfield and his former colleagues in the police department in a news conference outside court.

“A few years ago, I got myself into a situation where we began to cross the line. Little by little, we went beyond what was allowed and what we should have done,” Diaz said. “The past is the past. I can’t go back and fix it. But I can tell you, I’m a different man today.”

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