A judge ordered a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy to stand trial Thursday after prosecutors played a videotape of him allegedly buying more than two pounds of cocaine from an undercover police officer.
William Barr, 25, of Bellflower, who had been assigned to the North County Correctional Facility near Castaic, is accused of buying cocaine so that he could take it to Tennessee and become a drug dealer, prosecutors said.
During a preliminary hearing Thursday in Los Angeles Municipal Court, Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Yokelson played a videotape with audio apparently capturing Barr buying cocaine from an undercover police officer inside a car parked outside a post office terminal in downtown Los Angeles.
"I got people (in) Tennessee, Texas, New Jersey, all over," Barr says in the tape. "But I just want Tennessee because it's . . . a virgin state."
"It's a opportunity there," he says.
Moments later, the undercover officer discusses the possibility of future sales with Barr.
"If you can handle five, 10 kilos of coke when you come back, just let me know and we'll consign it to you," the officer says.
"OK," Barr replies.
The tape ends with three unmarked police cars closing in on Barr after he reaches into the trunk of the undercover officer's car for a red duffel bag containing a kilogram, or about 2.2 pounds of cocaine.
Thursday's hearing also included testimony by a prison inmate who acted as an informant in the case and helped authorities plan the phony drug sale and by a police officer who posed as a drug dealer during the undercover operation.
Dion Giarrusso, who is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for possession of a controlled substance for sale, testified that he reported Barr to authorities out of hope he would receive a lighter prison sentence and a transfer to a different jail facility.
Giarrusso testified that Barr approached him at the North County jail and asked him if he "wanted to do some narcotics deals and if I could help him out." After contacting authorities, the inmate said he set up a phony sale that required Barr to come up with a $7,000 down payment on the cocaine and supplied him with a pager number for the police officer who was posing as the drug dealer.
Giarrusso said he lowered the down payment to $1,000 after Barr apparently had problems coming up with the money after he had spoken with the officer once in February.
Following the testimony, Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Suzanne Person ordered Barr to stand trial on charges of possession of cocaine for sale and selling cocaine. He is scheduled to be arraigned July 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Leonard B. Levine, an attorney representing Barr, said his client is a victim of government entrapment.
"He's not a drug dealer," Levine said. "This whole transaction was created by the government."