Retired city police detective Sherri Barnes was sentenced this morning to three years of probation after being found guilty in May of two misdemeanor counts related to misuse of prescription medication.
Barnes attended the proceedings with her husband, along with several family members and friends. Afterward, she embraced them.
Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago sentenced Barnes to probation after prosecutors advocated for 60 days of jail time, arguing Barnes betrayed the trust of the people of Schenectady.
Barnes’ defense advocated for probation, citing a stack of 60 letters written in her behalf by family, friends and co-workers. The letters included one from her son. Barnes continues to maintain her innocence.
Drago said she weighed all the factors, foremost among them the 12-member jury’s finding of guilt. But, the judge also noted that the court gives defendents in similar situations the chance at probation.
Barnes has no criminal history, the crimes she was convicted of were nonviolent and, the judge found, they stemmed from a substance abuse problem.
But for the addiction, such defendants are productive members of society, the judge noted.
“I am willing to give Mrs. Barnes a chance to address that,” Drago said.
The judge also noted that, from the outset, prosecutors wanted her off the police force. That has been done. Barnes filed her retirement papers during closing arguments in May.
Barnes is to undergo a substance abuse evaluation as part of her probation. Her attorney, Paul DerOhannesian, said later she has already undergone such an evaluation previously. The evaluation found nothing.
However, he said that Barnes would follow whatever probation required.
Barnes was convicted in a trial in which the defense attempted to put the focus on police and state investigators.
Prosecution evidence included more than 2,600 phone calls between Barnes and her alleged drug supplier, all using Barnes’ police department-issued cellphone, along with video and pharmacy signature records linking Barnes directly with the supplier and the supplier’s medication.
Drago handed down the sentence after prosecutor Amy Burock advocated jail time.
“She betrayed the trust of the people of Schenectady and she had a higher duty than just an average person. She was a police officer,” Burock told the court.
Burock also argued that Barnes has had many chances to address her problem, but never took advantage of those chances.
Barnes didn’t speak at the sentencing. Instead, she relied on a letter she wrote that was given to the court.
DerOhannesian highlighted her record of service to the city and to others. He also noted she would not be before the court again.
“The likelihood of her coming back and reappearing as a defendant and committing a crime again, assuming there was one commiitted here, is nil,” DerOhannesian said. “That’s not something you can say about most of the defendants who appear in front of you.”
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