San Diego police gang detective Jeffrey Blackford sentenced to probation in DUI

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego police gang detective who admitted being drunk and driving recklessly when he crashed a city car while off duty in Allied Gardens was sentenced Monday to five years probation, including DUI classes and 25 days of public work service.

Jeffrey David Blackford, an 11-year member of the San Diego Police Department, pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor DUI charge and a reckless driving allegation stemming from the Dec. 7 crash.

Blackford, 34, faced 60 days in custody as a result of the reckless driving allegation, but Judge Frederick Maguire "struck" the punishment, noting that one day in jail would cost Blackford his job.

"He is sentenced like anybody else," Maguire said.

The judge said the interests of justice would be best served by the defendant doing public work service, which could include picking up trash on the side of the freeway.

"It is a bad lapse in judgment," the judge said. "As a cop, he should know better."

Deputy City Attorney Eric Pooch told the judge that Blackford drove at speeds as high as 91 mph in a 45-mph zone in the 7400 block of Princess View Drive near Mission Gorge Road about 1 a.m. before crashing his city-owned undercover vehicle. The wreck left him with injuries that required hospital care.

A preliminary breathalyzer test showed Blackford's blood-alcohol level as high as .15 percent, but a test three hours later registered .09 percent, Pooch said.

Defense attorney Tom Warwick said Blackford was an "exemplary individual" who had a 10-year safe driving record with the department.

Warwick admitted that Blackford -- a father of two -- had too much to drink the night of the collision and said accident-reconstruction experts placed the defendant's speed that night as closer to 74 mph.

Since the crash, Blackford has been serving desk duty, pending resolution of the case. As part of his sentence, Blackford is also required to pay a $2,123 fine, attend a victim impact panel sponsored by MADD and complete 25 ydays of public work service.

In addition, the District Attorney's Office is investigating whether a group of off-duty police officers tried to cover up the crash.

Criminal defense attorney Gretchen von Helms, who is not involved in the case, read over court documents obtained by 10News that detail the alleged cover-up. She does not believe the district attorney will file charges against the four officers.

"I think it would be very tough for the district attorney's office to come up with evidence to prove that they engaged in some malfeasance," said von Helms, who represented San Diego police officer Anthony Arevalos in his trial for using his badge to get sexual favors from women.

Court documents show that minutes after the crash, Blackford called two off-duty police friends, who showed up at the scene about 28 minutes after Blackford's car spun out. One of those officers called two more friends who were on-duty, but it was more than three hours before Blackford was given a breath test. His blood-alcohol content was still over the legal limit.

von Helms said as a rule, blood-alcohol tests should be administered within three hours of a DUI or the test results could be questioned.

"It may be that his fellow officers, knowing that rule, delayed on purpose in order to assist him, and it may be that they didn't, we don't know," said von Helms.

While the district attorney continues to review the case against the four officers, the police department has assigned them to desk duty.  

Blackford also remains on desk duty pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

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