OROVILLE — The bail set for a Yuba County narcotics officer arrested last week for the illegal possession of an assault rifle will remain at $1 million.
Christopher Mark Heath, 37, a Yuba County Sheriff’s Office deputy, was also arrested on December 29, 2015 in Pennsylvania with two other Butte County men — Tyler Long, 31 (his brother-in-law), and Ryan Falsone, 27 — for transporting nearly 250 pounds of marijuana to York County, PA, which is a felony charge.
All three were freed in Pennsylvania after each posted $1 million in bail.
Butte County Judge Kimberly Merrifield said earlier this week that the bail amount for the assault rifle charge was appropriate due to his arrest in Pennsylvania. However, Heath’s lawyer argued that bail should have been $15,000.
“There is not a legitimate basis for this,” said attorney Roberto Marquez. “(Heath) is a Butte County resident. He owns property here. He has a pending case in Pennsylvania. He is not going anywhere.”
Butte County Deputy District Attorney Jessica Miller disagreed and said, because of the nature of the Pennsylvania case and his knowledge and connections as a lead investigator with a five-agency narcotics enforcement team called NET-5, the bail should remain at $1 million.
“The people are concerned because of Mr. Heath’s access to weapons and cash from illicit drug trafficking,” Miller said. “Mr. Heath is aware of drug trafficking because of his employment as an investigator of the narcotics industry.”
Authorities raided Heath’s home in Bangor, CA following his release from a York County, PA prison and found two illegally modified assault rifles. He was then promptly rearrested. Police also found more than 130 pounds marijuana at the nearby home of Ramona Long, the mother of Tyler Long. She was released after posting $100,000 bail.
Heath’s wife, Tatum Heath, 35, was also arrested on a felony firearms count and was released last week. Her bail had been set at $15,000.
Marquez said his client’s arrests, which include illegally altering assault weapons to allow for the faster removal and reloading of magazines—is a “wobbler” and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
As an investigator since 2013 for the NET-5 team, Heath was involved in more than 60 drug cases and prosecutions. Yuba and Sutter county district attorneys say many of these cases are now being reviewed for potential dismissal and overturned convictions.