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The Des Moines Register
Friday, May 17, 1996, Page 1A.
Letters@desmoine.gannett.com

'One-Time Incident'

Judge says probation, not prison, for Trimble

Prosecutors say the police officer fired by Ubandale
after his drug arrest deserved harsher measures.

By Dan Eggen
Register Staff Writer

     James Trimble, the fired Urbandale police officer who stole
$20,000 worth of methamphetamine from his department, was spared
prison Thursday for his felony drug conviction.
     Judge Leo Oxberger sentenced Trimble to two years'
probation, a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.
     "I'm convinced this is a one-time incident for you," the
judge said.  The sentence angered prosecutors, who along with
presentence investigators recommended up to 10 years in prison
for the crime.
     Trimble, 44, is required to spend his community-service time
giving anti-drug speeches to students.  He conducted such talks
as a police officer in Urbandale schools.

Judge's Explanation
     "I do not want you to think that I do not consider this a
serious crime," Oxberger told Trimble.  "If this were a crime you
committed in the course of your conduct as a police officer, I
would view it differently.
     "I do not believe that any official should be above the law.
On the other hand, I don't think that any officer or high-
standing official should automatically be sentenced to prison....
You have rearranged your life and seem well on the way to
rehabilitating yourself."
     Jamie Bowers, an assistant Polk County attorney, pointed out
that Trimble admitted taking drugs from an evidence locker at the
Urbandale Police Department.
     About 4 a.m. on New Year's Day, Trimble was arrested driving
his mother's van in an inner-city Des Moines neighborhood.
Police say they found about 7 ounces - $20,000 worth - of
methamphetamine, in addition to marijuana, LSD and cocaine.

Videotapes and Pictures
     Authorities said numerous sexually explicit videotapes and
pictures were found in the van, including photos of Trimble.  He
had a battery-operated sexual device inserted in his body when
arrested, police said.
     Riding in the van with Trimble was Lorrie Breiholz, 34, who
was sentenced to probation and a deferred judgment in April for
misdemeanor marijuana possession.
     The 18-year veteran headed Urbandale's Drug Abuse Resistance
Education program and acted as liaison officer between police and
the suburb's schools.  He was fired shortly after his arrest.
     The case raised questions whether Trimble should be treated
like other first-time drug offenders -- almost all of whom
receive probation  or as a law officer who shamed his
profession.
     Bowers and state investigators argued the latter.
     "We recommended that he go to prison based upon the impact
he had on the community and on the credibility of law
enforcement," Bowers said.  "What the judge did depreciates the
serious nature of the crime. ...  When you're a police officer,
you're a police officer all the time, not just eight hours a
day."
     Trimble, sweat glistening on his face, said nothing during
or after the sentencing in Polk County District Court.
     "Jim Trimble lost his wife, his job, the respect of the
community.  He is a pariah," said Trimble's attorney, Mark
Pennington.  "I think he's been punished enough."
     Trimble's wife, who accused him of threatening to kill her
and commit suicide shortly before his arrest, has filed for
divorce.  He is unemployed and lives in Urbandale with his
mother.
     He was charged with five drug crimes, but prosecutors agreed
to let him plead guilty April 8 to one: possession with intent to
deliver methamphetamine.
     The crime is a Class C felony, a category that includes
offenses such as vehicular homicide, involuntary manslaughter and
third-degree sexual abuse.  It is part of the stiffest category
of state drug crimes.
     The sentence was not part of the plea bargain.

No Criminal History
     Pennington said it is important to note that Trimble had no
prior criminal history and there was no evidence he bought or
sold drugs.
     Criminal history is key to determining sentencing: After
Trimble was sentenced, Bowers said, three other people were sent
to prison on the same charge -- but they all had prior records.
     Pennington said Trimble's story will be valuable to
schoolchildren.
     "He has, in his own unique way, taught the kids the ultimate
lesson: That drugs bring nothing but disaster," he said.  "He's a
living example of the destructive power of drugs. "
     But David Hamlin, the Urbandale police chief, said Trimble
may have difficulty meeting his community-service requirement.
     "I do have some question about how many schools are really
going to be open to him talking to kids," Hamlin said.

Mixed Feelings
     Hamlin said he has mixed feelings about the sentence,
considering the black eye Trimble gave the small department.
     "He spent 18 years doing a lot of good work, but he created
a lot of havoc in recent months," he said.  "I'm thankful the
judicial aspect is over, although I'm sure we'll be answering for
it for some time."
     Authorities considered charging Trimble with theft but
decided it would have been "overkill," given the five drug
charges against him at the time, Hamlin said.
     District Judge Ray Fenton accepted Trimble's guilty plea and
would normally handle the sentencing as well.  But Fenton recused
himself because he said he had known Trimble for many years.
     Oxberger -- who fills in on the Polk County bench -- retired
in 1994 as chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals.

James Trimble stands for his sentencing Thursday.  The former
police officer received two year's probation and a fine
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