Former Judge Gets Year in Prison for Tipping Off High School Friend About Investigation
For informing a high school classmate about a cocaine trafficking probe, a former Colorado judge was sentenced to just over a year in prison.
According to the Department of Justice, former Weld County District Judge Ryan Kamada was sentenced to one year and one day in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez on Wednesday. Kamada, 42, pleaded guilty in June 2020 to obstructing the federal task force investigation by using information he received as a judge.
“Public officials charged with upholding the law must be held to the same standard by which they judge others,” acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado said in a statement. “Former Judge Kamada has been held properly accountable for his breach of that public trust.”
The task force investigation, which began around October 2018, focused on a drug trafficking organization that had been distributing large amounts of cocaine in Colorado. A search warrant targeted Kamada’s high school friend Alberto “Beto” Loya as part of the investigation the following year, according to The Greeley Tribune. Loya later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In April 2019, Kamada received a phone call from a task force member wanting to issue Loya’s warrant while working as a “on-call” judge. When a task force member pointed out that the two guys were connected on social media, Kamada recused himself from the case. However, the judge called his buddy Geoffrey Chacon, who was also a friend of Loya, the next morning to alert him about the probe. Loya was quickly tipped off by Chacon.
“By leaking the existence of a search warrant to help his close friend avoid possible criminal exposure, Ryan Kamada abused the power of his judicial position and violated the trust that the people of Colorado placed in him,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This prosecution confirms that no person–even a judge–is above the law.”
The leak of material to Loya, according to the Justice Department, “seriously hampered” the task force investigation. After delivering Loya the tip, Chacon erased records of his conversations with him, pleading guilty to one count of destruction of records with the purpose. This is a condensed version of the information.
The Justice Department has said the disclosure of information to Loya “significantly impacted” the task force’s investigation. Chacon destroyed records of his communications with Loya after sending him the tip and pleaded guilty in November 2019 to one count of destroying records with intent to impede a federal investigation. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 27.
Prior to Kamada’s sentencing, Martinez decided to enhance his sentence based on the former judge’s actions that “resulted in substantial impairment of the administration of justice,” the Greeley Tribune reported. Martinez also sentenced Kamada to two years of probation following his release from prison.
“I’m ashamed of what I did and all the ethics I violated,” Kamada reportedly said at the hearing. “I had a front-row seat in the best justice system in the world…. My actions have overshadowed that system.”