It should have been a routine case. In May of 2018, YONET agents acting on a warrant raided the home of Dean Alan Barto and five other individuals. While Mr. Barto’s name was not on the warrant, agents seized substances believed to be heroin and methamphetamine, as well as a firearm in the possession of a man with prior convictions for felonies.
However, during the preliminary hearing held two weeks ago, Agent Shad Begley acknowledged having discarded evidence of the heroin, leading to an admonishment by Judge David Rosenberg. Mr. Barto was still held to answer – as there was sufficient evidence to do so – but his conviction on that and perhaps one other point is now in doubt.
During the preliminary hearing in front of Judge Rosenberg, Agent Begley, working for YONET (Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team), testified that he found five hypodermic needles that had a dark liquid substance inside that tested through “the NIK kit presumptive positive for heroin.”
According to him, all five syringes tested positive for heroin. They also found a glass meth pipe with a white crystalline substance in it.
They found “dab” written on a mirror.
Ms. Raymond asked, “What does ‘dab’ mean?”
Mr. Begley responded: “Depends on who you ask, I guess. In my line of work, it’s typically used with people that are using illegal drugs, such as butane honey oil and marijuana.”
However, under cross-examination from Deputy Public Defender Lisa Lance, the possibility came out that these were simply the defendant’s initials as his full name is “Dean Alan Barto.”
Agent Begley further testified it was difficult to know how much heroin was in the syringes.
He testified, “When it comes to looking at a syringe that’s already preloaded or been used, it’s very difficult to get a specific measurement of how much of that liquid is actually heroin versus another liquid such as water or blood, so we did not test them. We took photos — or we tested them, sorry. We didn’t try to take any measurements.”
Then he said, “We took photos and then they were disposed of in the sharps container.”
Under cross-examination, Agent Begley testified that another woman stayed in the same room with Mr. Barto. Ms. Lance asked Mr. Begley, “Whose clothes were in the closet?”
Agent Begley responded, “I don’t know whose clothes were in the closet.”
What Agent Begley did not relate is that the clothes in the closet were female clothes and therefore not those of Mr. Barto. Nor did Agent Begley do fingerprint tests to determine if the gun really was that of Mr. Barto.
Under cross, Agent Begley reiterated that the meth was booked, but “the needles and syringes were not maintained, not kept.”
For the purposes of a preliminary hearing, the defense basically conceded there was sufficient evidence to hold Mr. Barto to answer for the charges. However, convicting him will be another matter.
Judge Rosenberg, during his ruling, noted, “The only concern I have is related to the heroin.”
“Arguably there’s enough evidence presented at the preliminary hearing to hold Mr. Barto to answer on all charges, but how do you prove it at trial if there’s been no confirmatory test?”
Ms. Raymond asked, “Is the court asking me?”
Judge Rosenberg responded, “No, that’s a rhetorical question.”
He continued, “So the People have to ponder that dilemma, and law enforcement has to ponder that issue as well. You have evidence that you have discarded, and how do you prove that?”
The judge concluded that “in any event, that’s for another day. The Court will hold Mr. Barto to answer.”
Mr. Barto is scheduled to be arraigned on the information on September 20. He faces one felony charge for the firearm and three misdemeanor charges – two charges for possession and one charge for possessing drug paraphernalia.
—David M. Greenwald reporting