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MARTINEZ — Contra Costa prosecutors have filed felony charges against a disgraced former sheriff’s deputy accused of falsifying a judge’s signature and internal police records as part of a scheme to steal guns.
Matthew Buckley, 41, of Pinole, was charged Friday with grand theft of a firearm, possessing an assault weapon, filing false police report, and two counts of preparing false documents, all felonies. He also faces a single misdemeanor charge of destroying or concealing evidence.
Buckley was arrested and fired last year after an investigation by his own colleagues. It all started after he served a lawful search warrant on a man that yielded two firearms, among other items. But authorities say Buckley then falsified documents — including internal reports and a search warrant — to make it seem like only one gun had been seized.
The scheme unravelled when the gun owner died and his father began asking the sheriff’s office for his son’s property back. When sheriff’s investigators looked into the matter, they discovered Buckley had kept an AR-15-style weapon. They subsequently served a search warrant at Buckley’s home and recovered the firearm, along with a small amount of methamphetamine, according to court records.
“We are appreciative of the work of the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office did investigating this case,” Assistant District Attorney Simon O’Connell said in a written statement. “Their professionalism and thorough work done under difficult circumstances led to the filing decision of our office submitted to the court today.”
Buckley was arrested last August, but prosecutors didn’t charge him until Friday. The delay was caused in part by Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton’s initial move to recuse her office from the case; Buckley was a former courtroom deputy for Becton when she served as a superior court judge. Becton also officiated Buckley’s wedding more than a decade ago.
The California Attorney General’s office ultimately sent the case back to the Contra Costa DA, which filed the case without input from Becton, according to prosecutors. A DA news release says that prosecutors have erected an “ethical wall” around Becton and that she won’t have anything to do with the prosecution.
Buckley is set to have his first court appearance Tuesday, court records show. His attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.
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