A former Sierra Conservation Center correctional officer was sentenced to a year in Tuolumne County Jail on Wednesday for smuggling marijuana to a prison inmate for four months spanning 2008 and 2009.
Matthew McCollum, 28, of Oakdale, pleaded guilty in August to bringing marijuana to convict Rodger Smith with the help of Smith’s girlfriend, Tammy Rae Smith Williams.
In return for the plea, the District Attorney’s Office dropped four more charges McCollum had faced.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Eric DuTemple went against a Probation Office recommendation for a two-year prison term, and instead sentenced him to county jail time with probation.
McCollum’s lawyer, Jesse Ortiz, had argued that his client had lost everything already — his home, his job and his future as a correctional officer.
“The felony conviction on his record will prevent him from accomplishing all he wanted to do with his life,” Ortiz said.
DuTemple said that he recognized that prisoners were manipulative, and that McCollum was a young officer, but his leniency came with a warning.
“If you give me the smallest reason to regret this decision, I will not hesitate to send you to prison,” DuTemple said.
The courtroom was full of family, friends and supporters, some of whom cheered when the sentence came down.
Although McCollum’s parents refused to comment on the decision, letters of support that accompanied his pre-sentencing probation report described McCollum as a “role model,” “good person” and “hard worker.”
The Sierra Conservation Center had a different opinion.
“His conviction is not a reflection of the large number of hard-working, dedicated public employees here at SCC who fully understand the meaning of public trust,” wrote Lt. Kevin Wise. “Mr. McCollum took advantage of his position of trust for financial gain. This department and our prison have no tolerance for this type of behavior, and recognize that justice has been served.”
According to the probation report, McCollum began smuggling tobacco into the prison for Smith in November 2008.
He had been working at the prison for two months. He joined the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after he failed out of a police academy in Alameda County.
According to McCollum’s probation report account, Smith approached him while he was working kitchen duty, and asked that he bring in tobacco.
McCollum first rebuffed him, but after additional attempts by Smith, he relented.
“I don’t know how or why he convinced me, but he did,” McCollum wrote.
According to the report, McCollum was deep in debt and spending money faster than he was taking it in.
The probation officer wrote that McCollum had large credit card bills, and that the smuggling doubled his monthly income.
According to the report, McCollum agreed to bring tobacco into the prison for $100 per container. He concealed it in his lunch bag, delivered it, and would pick up payment from Smith’s girlfriend in Atwater.
On his second visit to Atwater, McCollum picked up a bag that contained marijuana, among other items, and took those into the prison as well.
McCollum told probation officers that he made five or six visits to Atwater and Merced for payments. The dropoffs were coordinated with Smith Williams via a pre-paid cell phone.
On Jan. 9, 2009, an anonymous source informed prison officials that McCollum had been bringing cell phones, tobacco and marijuana into the prison for Smith.
The prison’s Internal Affairs division investigated the matter, and on Jan. 13 investigators found a post office box address in Smith’s personal locker. It belonged to McCollum’s housemate, a Modesto police officer named Andrew Miguel.
On Feb. 2, McCollum was informed that he was being investigated. A search of his car revealed three plastic bags containing a cell phone, tobacco and a specimen bottle with urine inside.
Officers searched McCollum’s residence and found 22.24 grams of marijuana packaged into 47 bindles in a storage shed.
A search of Smith William’s residence yielded “$32,040 in receipts involving cash exchanges between McCollum and Smith Williams,” according to the report.
Smith Williams denies profiting from the activity, and McCollum claims only to have made $4,000.
According to the probation officer’s report, “McCollum was very remorseful for his behavior and upset that his actions have embarrassed and created a burden on his family.”
Source: Union Democrat