Former Judge Gets Year in Prison for Tipping Off High School Friend About Investigation

A former judge in Colorado has been sentenced to just over a year in prison for tipping off his high school friend about a cocaine trafficking investigation.

U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez sentenced Ryan Kamada, a former Weld County District Judge, to one year and one day in prison on Wednesday, according to the Department of Justice. Kamada, 42, pleaded guilty in June 2020 to using information he received as a judge to obstruct the federal task force investigation.

"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.

Ryan Kamada Judge Corruption Obstruction Cocaine Colorado
Former Judge Ryan Kamada was sentenced on Wednesday to just over a year in prison for leaking information about a cocaine trafficking investigation involving his friend in Colorado. A pair of handcuffs is placed near a gavel in this undated file photo. artisteer/Getty

While serving as an "on-call" judge in April 2019, Kamada received a phone call from a task force member seeking to issue Loya's warrant. Kamada recused himself from the case when the task force member pointed out that the two men were connected on social media. However, the judge called his friend Geoffrey Chacon—also a friend of Loya—and informed him of the investigation the next morning. Chacon tipped off Loya soon after.

"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 Justice Department said that the leaking of information to Loya "substantially interfered" with the task force investigation. Chacon destroyed records of his communications with Loya after sending him the tip, pleading guilty to one count of destruction of records with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation in November 2019. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 27.

Before sentencing Kamada, Martinez ruled in favor of a sentencing enhancer due to the former judge's actions "resulting in substantial interference in the administration of justice," The Greeley Tribune reported. Martinez also sentenced Kamada to two years of probation after his release from prison.

"I'm ashamed of what I've done and all the ethics I've violated," Kamada reportedly said at the hearing. "I had a front-row seat to the world's best judicial system...My actions created a cloud over that system."

Newsweek reached out to Kamada's attorney for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.