Crime

SLO police detective could get 20 years in prison in extortion case

San Luis Obispo police Chief Steve Gesell and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson express their disappointment in the conduct of Cory Pierce, a SLOPD officer arrested by the FBI on Feb. 5, 2013.
San Luis Obispo police Chief Steve Gesell and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson express their disappointment in the conduct of Cory Pierce, a SLOPD officer arrested by the FBI on Feb. 5, 2013. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A San Luis Obispo police detective arrested in a bribery scheme pleaded guilty to extortion in federal court Monday and now faces up to 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

Cory Pierce, 40, was arrested by FBI agents in February and indicted in March by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on one count of bribery and one count of extortion. In April, he pleaded not guilty to the count of bribery.

The move was part of a plea deal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox said.

“He pled guilty to the more serious offense,” Fox said. “The bribery (charge) will be dismissed at sentencing.”

Sentencing is set for Dec. 9 at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Pierce is accused of taking cash and narcotics from two witnesses while working on a multi-agency task force. In return, he helped them avoid arrest and get lighter probation supervision and provided them with drugs, according to the FBI.

Pierce was hired by the San Luis Obispo Police Department in September 2006, serving on the special enforcement unit before joining the narcotics unit. After his arrest, he was placed on paid administrative leave.

Pierce remains on paid administrative leave, pending the department’s internal investigation into his actions, Capt. Chris Staley said.

“We’re still in the process and may be wrapped up within a week. It’s an internal investigation where we look at documents from the court and are gathering that information to make our decision,” Staley said.

Pierce has been on paid leave since his arrest in February, as required by state due-process laws, Staley said.

“(Law) requires paid leave until we have enough information through an investigation to move forward with disciplining someone, which can range from a verbal reprimand to termination, depending on the offense,” Staley said. “Obviously, this is a very serious offense.”

The amount of money Pierce has been paid while on leave wasn’t immediately available Tuesday.

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