A Baton Rouge lawmaker’s son and another man implicated in the 2008 killing of a church musician pleaded guilty Monday to unrelated robbery charges and were sent to prison.
James G. Barrow, 26, the son of state Rep. Regina A. Barrow, pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree robbery stemming from a 2011 incident and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Michael Smith Jr., 24, pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Regina Barrow was in state District Judge Richard Anderson’s courtroom but left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
“It’s certainly not ideal under the circumstances,” Aidan Reynolds, who represents James Barrow, said of the 20-year term while noting that Barrow could have faced up to 99 years in prison if convicted of armed robbery as originally charged.
“It’s just a sad situation,” added Smith’s attorney, Robert Tucker. “Association has a lot to do with what happens to us.”
James Barrow and Smith were arrested Jan. 16, 2011, and accused of robbing a man at gunpoint on Nicholson Drive near West Grant Street. At the time, Barrow was serving a three-year probation sentence issued in August 2009 in an unrelated burglary conviction.
The men also were booked June 19, 2008, on one count each of principal to second-degree murder in the death of Brent Cole, 39, of DeQuincy. Neither Barrow nor Smith has been indicted in that case.
“We’re continuing to investigate that killing,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Monday. “We’ll continue to work toward an appropriate resolution and justice in that matter.”
Cole, who commuted to Baton Rouge weekly to play bass guitar at First Pentecostal Church, was shot at and chased while driving along Goodwood and Independence boulevards on March 15, 2008, police have said. He was found fatally injured in his car on Goodwood at Lobdell Avenue.
In the Jan. 16, 2011, incident, Barrow and Smith were riding in a sport utility vehicle just before 5:30 p.m. when they saw a 31-year-old man carrying a backpack, East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Tracey Barbera said Monday inside Anderson’s courtroom.
Barrow, who was a passenger in the SUV driven by Smith, jumped out of the vehicle, indicated he had a weapon and demanded the man’s backpack, Barbera said.
At the time, State Police gave this account of the incident:
The victim gave up the backpack, and Barrow and Smith fled. The victim flagged down a nearby trooper who saw the vehicle stop and drive off. The trooper pulled the vehicle over and apprehended Smith. Barrow ran into a nearby ditch. The trooper, with the help of Baton Rouge police, caught Barrow after a short chase and arrested him.
Investigators did not find a gun on Barrow or anywhere near the scene, Barbera said, citing that fact for the reason prosecutors accepted the first-degree robbery pleas. Barrow and Smith were scheduled to stand trial Monday on one count each of armed robbery.