A Bloomfield man convicted of neglecting three horses, including one who died, went to court Wednesday simply to change lawyers -- but came away with a ruling ordering him to repay the county $8,000 for defending him over the past several months.
Salvador Barrera, 35, was convicted in October of one felony and two misdemeanor counts of neglecting three horses he and his girlfriend had at their Lincoln Street property. He remains in custody pending sentencing later this month on charges that call for a maximum of three years in prison and possible fines.
The trial captured the attention of horse lovers throughout Sonoma County, who attended by the dozen. Many came to tears when prosecutors showed photos of the body of a severely emaciated horse, Yiyo, who died last November while under Barrera's care.
Two other thin horses were confiscated in March by animal control officers and adopted into new homes. Both gained 150 pounds each in their first month of rehabilitation, according to trial testimony.
During the four-day trial last month, Barrera was represented by a public defender, funded by taxpayers for indigent clients. His girlfriend, Laura Valencia, 35, had a private attorney.
The jury deadlocked on all charges involving Valencia and one count against Barrera, leaning toward guilt on all of them. Valencia has since agreed to admit responsibility for one misdemeanor and was sentenced to one year of probation and 20 hours of community service in a veterinary office.
Wednesday, at what was expected to be a routine hearing to substitute attorneys, Barrera's new lawyer, Peter Duarte, took over the case. But then Assistant Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi requested attorney's fees for her office.
She said attorneys and investigators in the Public Defender's Office spent weeks investigating the facts, interviewing witnesses, attending hearings, filing legal motions, preparing for trial and representing Barrera during the trial.
Pozzi and Barrera's trial attorney, Judy Conry, estimated they spent at least 80 hours working in Barrera's defense.
Calling that estimate conservative, Judge Ren?Chouteau ordered Barrera to pay the county $8,000 in legal fees.
Duarte countered that he was not hired by Barrera, who has been in custody since the conviction.
"I was retained by family members, not Sal Barrera," he said. "Nothing is coming from out of his pocket."
Chouteau said he could submit paperwork arguing his case, but added, "that is a very reasonable award based on the amount of work put in."
Barrera is due to be sentenced Nov. 26.
You can reach Staff Writer L.A. Carter at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.