By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The knife wound in the neck was potentially deadly, but the victim not only survived, he’s not around to testify if prosecutors were to go forward with a trial regarding last month’s stabbing at the Centralia wholesale meat business.
Sabino Gomez-Barriga was in court today to plead guilty in a deal crafted by attorneys on both sides to give him the agreed upon amount of prison time.
Gomez-Barriga was sentenced, as they recommended, to four and a half years in prison.
Gomez-Barriga was arrested at his Chehalis apartment on Nov. 7 after a fight between two employees at the Five Star Beef Company on Airport Road.
Prosecutors alleged that after getting punched in the face, Gomez-Barriga stuck a boning knife in 21-year-old Jorge Juarez’s neck. He also was accused of first jabbing Juarez with the blunt end of a meat hook, which Gomez-Barriga’s attorney said the victim tried to grab as well.
Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Shane O’Rourke told the judge a primary reason for the plea deal is Juarez is nowhere to be found; he’s not responded to attempts to contact him by the sheriff’s office, the prosecutor’s office or even the state Department of Labor and Industries.
“My thinking is juries don’t look favorably when the victim (doesn’t show up) and when the victim is the initial aggressor,” O’Rourke told the judge.
Gomez-Barriga is 35 years old, according to court documents, although he told the judge today he is 36. He has no known criminal history and said the last year of school he completed was third grade.
He was initially charged with first-degree assault, but pleaded guilty today to second-degree assault, with a deadly weapon and with a stipulation the judge could go above the top of the standard sentence without a specific jury finding.
“I think it’s fairly clear here, the result was not intended,” defense attorney J.P. Enbody told the judge regarding the seriousness of the victim’s injury. “Also, the victim was not the initial aggressor here, and I don’t think the state would disagree with that.”
O’Rourke indicated he concurred and felt a 54-month sentence was a fair outcome.
O’Rourke said last week it was his understanding the victim made a full recovery.
Speaking through a Spanish interpreter, Gomez-Barriga chose to address the judge when asked, even though Enbody was gently shaking his head no
“He said he was under the impression the victim had federal charges against him,” Enbody said after consulting with his client and the interpreter.
Lewis County Superior Court Judge Brosey said he understood the case to be an argument that got out of control and said fortunately the defendant’s weapon of choice was not a firearm.
Brosey took extra steps in reminding Gomez-Barriga of the immigration consequences of a conviction, although neither O’Rourke nor Enbody could say for sure if Gomez-Barriga was in the country legally or illegally.
Enbody said he didn’t ask his client where he was born.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a hold placed on him.
For background, read “Centralia slaughterhouse fight involved meathook and boning knife” from Friday November 9, 2012, here