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Decatur man pleads guilty to lesser offense

All told, federal and state raid netted $4,214 in fines and fees, more than two months in jail for pot and fishing offenses

A Decatur man arrested on a felony drug charge in a raid by state and federal officers in October will likely serve five days in jail or on work crew for trying to buy 40 grams or more of marijuana.

On July 16, James Harry Barker, 44, pleaded guilty in San Juan County Superior Court to one count of solicitation to possess a controlled substance — marijuana, a gross misdemeanor. He is slated to be sentenced Aug. 22 and will face maximum penalties of one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.

Initially, Barker, represented by Friday Harbor attorney Carla Higginson, was charged with possession of 40 grams or more of marijuana, a Class C felony.

According to court documents, prosecutors will recommend that Barker serve five days in jail or on work crew as part of a two-year suspended sentence, and that he pay a total of $750 in fines and fees. That recommendation includes an additional payment of $500 to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife as partial reimbursement of the cost of its four-month long undercover investigation.

Barker was one of three Decatur residents apprehended by state and federal officers as part of controversial sting that left many islanders angered by the extent of the undercover investigation that preceded the raid and by the ensuing show of force.

Armed and backed by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, federal drug enforcement agents and state game officers descended on the island in mid-October and, with search warrants signed by a judge in neighboring Skagit County, conducted targeted searches at several homes. Marijuana, $3,200 cash, a fishing boat, crab pots and several computers were reportedly seized during the raid.

The investigation and raid reportedly took place without the knowledge of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department.

Previously, Nathan Fortnum, also of Decatur, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and ordered to pay $1,250 in fines and fees after pleading guilty to one count of manufacturing marijuana, a Class C felony.

In February, Joseph Coomer, 72, paid $2,214 in fines and fees after being charged with more than a dozen misdemeanor offenses, including 15 separate fishing violations.

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