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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 20) - Disgraced former Guam police officer Jason C. Ortiola yesterday was sentenced to six years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty last year to dealing the drug ice while in possession of a firearm.

Visiting federal Judge Morrison England sentenced Ortiola to one year for the drug offense and five years for the firearms offense -- a mandatory federal sentence for carrying a firearm during drug trafficking. The sentences are to be served consecutively. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

Ortiola on June 3, 2005, sold half a gram of methamphetamine for US$300 at the house of a police informant. Authorities had monitored the transaction, and Ortiola showed up in uniform, carrying his police-issued pistol.

Carrying a firearm made the drug crime a federal case, and Ortiola last August signed a plea agreement.

He was fired as a police officer last July, appealed his termination, but failed to show up for any of the Civil Service Commission hearings.

Ortiola's attorney, Howard Trapp, yesterday objected to the presentence report recommendation that Ortiola be given a longer sentence for abusing his position of trust.

The fact that Ortiola wore a police uniform did not make it any easier for him to commit the crime he pleaded guilty to, Trapp argued.

"We concede this is an abuse of position of trust," Trapp said, adding that it did not contribute to this specific offense or make it easier.

Federal prosecutor Karon Johnson argued that the stiffer sentence should stand because Ortiola's position as an unsupervised uniformed police officer made it easier for him to act without question.

England agreed with the prosecution's position that the stiffer sentencing recommendation was appropriate.

"I'm terribly sorry for what I've done," Ortiola said before being sentenced. "As a police officer, I let everybody down in the department."

Ortiola also said he let down his 6-year-old daughter, his friends and family -- some of whom wept in the courtroom after England pronounced sentence.

Ortiola will remain free until the federal Bureau of Prisons assigns him to a facility, or until 2 p.m. November 20 -- whichever comes first -- the judge decided.

England said he normally would have a defendant taken into custody immediately, but said he took into account Ortiola's family and the good he had done as a police officer.

England described Ortiola's crime as, "highly offensive to law enforcement and the judicial system."

England also said that Ortiola acted with a certain level of "boldness" that he found "somewhat surprising."

He said Ortiola's actions indicate the level of the ice problem in Guam and other communities.

After Ortiola serves his prison sentence, he will be under three years of supervised release and must complete 200 hours of community service, among other conditions.

Police spokesman Officer Alan Guzman yesterday said police Chief Frank Ishizaki is saddened by the case, and said the department will not tolerate employees who break the law.

September 21, 2006

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