BPD officer charged with vandalism by damaging evidence takes plea deal

·2 min read

Sep. 22—A Bakersfield Police Department officer entered into a plea deal Thursday after he was charged with vandalism for destroying evidence earlier this year during a collision investigation in downtown Bakersfield.

Riverside-based attorney Kasey Castillo entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor charge of vandalism less than $400 on behalf of Officer Nicholas Bell, who was not present in Kern County Superior Court for the hearing.

Bell was given a deferred entry of judgment, which is typically used in misdemeanor cases for defendants with little or no prior criminal history, according to Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel, spokesman for the DA's office. Penalties for misdemeanor cases can be a year in jail or paying a fine up to $1,000.

Kinzel wrote in an email this resolution was made because Bell had completed 16 hours of anger management classes and 10 additional hours of counseling.

Castillo said after the hearing that she never anticipated this case leading to jail time for her client, but that circumstances do vary per case.

Joe Conroy, a spokesman for the city of Bakersfield, said Bell is on paid administrative leave from the agency and still a BPD employee. He was put on paid administrative leave Jan. 20, Conroy added.

A woman was driving near the intersection of M and 23rd streets on Jan. 17 when the driver of a silver Ford Fusion ran a red light and plowed into the passenger side of her vehicle, according to offense reports filed in Kern County Superior Court.

The driver of the Ford Fusion and a passenger in that car grabbed a child from the backseat and ran from the scene, while screaming she didn't want to get another DUI, according to court reports.

Bell went to the scene to investigate when another officer said he asked if their body-worn camera was on. When the officer said no, Bell threw an iPhone 12 Pro that was recovered from the Ford Fusion onto the ground, the court reports said.

Bell then walked to the phone, picked it up and threw it again. And then another time, police said in the court reports. A witness also overheard Bell, walking to the victims who were still at the scene, say something to the effect of, "If this makes you feel better, she doesn't have a nice phone anymore."

Bell is scheduled to be sentenced March 22 in Kern County Superior Court, if no other law violations are made and the full amount of restitution is paid.

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter.