Barber convicted, sentenced for stealing bottle of wine

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A judge found Rowan County Commissioner Jon Barber guilty of misdemeanor larceny for taking a bottle of wine from a convenience store cooler.
Judge Martin McGee sentenced Barber to a year of probation and ordered him to pay for the wine, which Barber allegedly drank inside the men’s restroom after taking the bottle.
Barber is already on probation for driving while impaired in connection with a May wreck.
Barber was charged with misdemeanor larceny in the early April wine theft. He pleaded not guilty.
But after listening to witnesses during a three-hour, non-jury trial Tuesday afternoon, District Court Judge Martin McGee of Cabarrus County found otherwise.
“Beyond a reasonable doubt, he is in fact guilty,” McGee said.
Local judges recused themselves from the case.
Authorities said that on the morning of April 10, a Sunday, Barber stole a $2.99 bottle of Wild Irish Rose wine from the Rushco store at 601 W. Jake Alexander Blvd.
The Salisbury Police Department conducted an initial investigation. The case was turned over to the SBI at the behest of Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook.
Much of the trial testimony came from store clerk Kelly Beck, who testified she saw Barber reach for the bottle of wine located on the top shelf of the cooler at the back of the store.
Beck said Barber was a regular customer who she saw three to four times a week. He would typically stop in the store on Sundays for coffee, she said, but stopped earlier than usual that day, around 6 a.m. 
She noted Barber was also dressed more casually that day. He normally came in on Sundays wearing dress clothes, but that day he wore jeans, a T-shirt and a sweatshirt.
The two greeted each other, then Barber picked up a pint of milk and a pint of orange juice, Beck said. 
Beck testified she then watched Barber reach for the wine and walk into the men’s restroom, where he stayed for about a minute. When he emerged from the men’s room, Barber walked down an aisle and picked up work gloves, Beck said. He then paid for the gloves, milk and orange juice.
The clerk testified that Barber seemed nervous when he walked up to the counter. And she said that she saw what she believed was the wine bottle in his pocket.
David Bingham, Barber’s attorney, asked Beck why she didn’t question Barber before he left the store. She answered that she wasn’t 100 percent sure whether Barber had taken the wine bottle with him or set it on another shelf.
But once Barber left the store, Beck said, she searched the cooler where she saw him take the bottle of wine. Beck said there was an obvious empty space where the wine had been.
Bingham asked Beck if she checked the men’s bathroom. She said no.
Beck said the wine was the only item on the top shelf and she also knew which section Barber had gone to because she could tell from the front of the store which cooler door he opened.
Bingham asked Beck if she could see the men’s bathroom from the front of the store and she said no. She said she could see Barber with items in his hands until the point when he went inside the restroom.
Beck also said a man walked in the bathroom not long after Barber.
The restrooms are cleaned by McDonald’s staff. The restaurant is attached to the convenience store. The restaurant’s staff said they found an empty Wild Irish Rose bottle and an empty Gatorade bottle in the restroom. The store’s manager told the person cleaning to throw the items away.
A Salisbury Police officer tried to find the wine bottle, but was unsuccessful, said Sam Gregory, an SBI agent who testified in court.
Beck printed out Barber’s receipt and noted what he wore and what she believed was taken.
She told Bingham she had not seen video the in-store camera.
There were about 12 cameras recording in the store that day and video taken from the store cameras was played during the trial. In April Police Chief Rory Collins said a review of the video “determined the suspect appeared to be Jon Barber.”
Barber did not testify during Tuesday’s trial.
The judge sentenced Barber to 45 days in the N.C. Department of Correction. That was suspended as Barber serves one year of supervised probation.
He was also ordered to pay a $50 fine and $2.99 in restitution to the store.
Barber is not allowed at that particular store and is not to contact the clerk.
Barber entered a treatment facility after admitting he has a problem with alcohol following several incidents and charges.
Barber pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in 2008 after being found in February of that year passed out in his car near the corner of Sherrills Ford and Long Branch roads. His blood-alcohol content measured .18, more than double the legal limit.
Barber allegedly showed up drunk to his sixth-grade classroom at Southeast Middle School the morning of May 19, 2010. Though he has never acknowledged he was intoxicated, Barber resigned from his job the next day. At the time, he said he resigned to “pursue other opportunities.”
Former District Attorney Bill Kenerly said Barber was escorted from the campus that day and he considered charges before determining that no crimes involving children occurred and that Barber could not be successfully prosecuted for other crimes because the school system obtained blood-alcohol results with a device not admissable in court. 
Barber pleaded guilty in August to driving drunk when he wrecked his Ford Focus on  Graham Road. He was sentenced to two years of probation in that case.
Barber’s therapist and others were in court Tuesday ot support him, his attorney said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.