Jail, or join the military Judge gives option to man in drug case
By GEORGE B. SANCHEZ
Herald Staff Writer
SALINAS The Salinas marijuana peddler who killed a would-be robber in March
was told Tuesday that he can avoid a jail term by enlisting in the
military--an option that caught the prosecutor and defense lawyer off guard.
Brian Barr, 24, was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday morning for felony
possession of marijuana for sale, a charge he admitted last month.
The charge stemmed from a March 22 home-invasion robbery at Barr's South
Salinas apartment. He shot and killed intruder John Herrera, 34, who had
entered the apartment with two others in search of money and marijuana.
Barr was charged with marijuana possession after investigators determined he
had hidden his marijuana supply after the shooting and even rifled through
Herrera's pants pockets to retrieve marijuana.
Monterey County Judge Robert Moody said Tuesday that Herrera's shooting was
justified and that gun possession, not the shooting, was the aggravating
"This very situation is apt to arise" when someone selling drugs also has
access to a gun, Moody said.
After announcing that the Probation Department had recommended 240 days in
jail, and praising the probation officer assigned to the case, Moody gave
Barr the option of enlistment instead.
"There's an awful lot of good in this young man," said Moody, citing Barr's
record as a student, his civic involvement and his intervention in a Salinas
bank robbery last year. Barr's father, William, is the county superintendent
Deputy District Attorney Todd Hornik and defense lawyer Sam Lavorato Jr.
said they were surprised.
"It was not something I expected," Hornik said later. "I've never seen it
come up unsolicited or uninitiated from the bench at sentencing, when it
hasn't been discussed."
Lavorato said he hadn't expected such an outcome. "Today was a day set for
judgment and sentencing," he said immediately following the ruling. "But
this is an unusual case."
Hornik said people convicted of drug-related crimes often are sent to
treatment rather than jail. In Juvenile Court, he said, he has seen military
enlistment used as an alternative sentence. But he said the option of jail
or the Army, common during the 1960s and 1970s, isn't something he has heard
"I think this young man would be an excellent candidate for one of the armed
services," Moody said. He said that when he was bused to Monterey as a
draftee 30 years ago, many of the other young men on board had chosen the
Army over jail.
Barr is scheduled to return to court next month.