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Stoic in front of former colleagues from the San Francisco district attorney’s office, Robert Roland betrayed little emotion yesterday when he was sentenced to six months in prison. The former DA pleaded guilty in February to taking Ecstasy from drug dealers he had earlier prosecuted in court. At his sentencing hearing, Roland left most of the talking to his defense attorney, Cristina Arguedas, who made a determined effort to reduce his sentence to probation instead of prison time. “I’m sorry for my conduct, but beyond that I don’t have anything else to add,” Roland said. It was a difficult case to judge, said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, himself a former San Francisco prosecutor. Wednesday’s hearing ended an embarrassing chapter for the district attorney’s office and for Roland, who had risen quickly to become a top lieutenant under former DA Terence Hallinan. “Mr. Roland, your conduct is inexplicable, and I have yet to receive an explanation for it. Maybe there isn’t one,” Breyer said before issuing his sentence, the maximum under a plea deal worked out in February. “I hope that if there’s a message, and I’m always concerned about judges sending messages, it is that the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system must always be maintained,” Breyer said. Arguedas tried persuading Breyer that Roland’s position as an assistant district attorney should not be considered as a basis for sentencing. Roland had already been sent to federal court for a case that would otherwise be argued in state court because he was a prosecutor. And he still faces a hearing before the State Bar in a bid to retain his license to practice law, Arguedas said. “So I guess you would be triple punishing him if you use his position as an assistant DA against him,” she told Breyer. Arguedas submitted more than 20 letters from family, friends and former colleagues � including Assistant District Attorney Jean Kang, his wife � to demonstrate Roland’s moral character, his suffering and his willingness to accept responsibility for his actions. She implored Breyer to attach any conditions to his probation � “You could order that he have no nutritious food” � but to keep him out of prison. “I would argue to the court that you should not be thinking about jail for a law enforcement officer unless there is no other way,” Arguedas said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christophe Steskal took exception to the idea that Roland’s conduct had no impact on the justice system. “You can’t write a letter about what a great guy Rob Roland is while ignoring the very conduct he pled guilty to.” Though somewhat reluctantly, Breyer agreed. “A judge is nothing without lawyers appearing in front of them and being honest, being direct, being impartial and being neutral,” Breyer said. “They rely on the integrity of the lawyers in front of them to mete out justice.” Roland’s name surfaced in an indictment last year after federal prosecutors learned of his relationship with several people targeted in a long-running drug conspiracy case. Roland was in charge of prosecuting some of these people, including Eric Shaw, a childhood friend and one of the people who supplied Roland with drugs. In exchange for Roland’s guilty plea, federal prosecutors agreed to drop additional charges alleging Roland traded favors for defendants in return for drugs delivered to his doorstep, then lied to authorities when asked about it all. Perhaps alluding to the more serious charges Roland faced in his federal indictment, Breyer credited Arguedas despite the prison sentence he gave her client. “I think she did her work before she got here today,” he said. Roland must surrender to prison authorities by Aug. 1. He will serve his time in a minimum-security facility in Lompoc.

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