The Des Moines Register
Friday, May 17, 1996, Page 1A.

'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 
     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 
     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 
     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 
     "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