Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Rapper Eric B. Gets Probation For 17-Year-Old New Jersey Assault Case

The judge imposed a condition that if the performer doesn't comply with rules of his probation, he could face months in jail

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What to Know

  • Rapper and actor Eric B. was sentenced to a year's probation stemming from a traffic stop and police chase that occurred nearly 19 years ago
  • The performer spent two weeks in the Bergen County jail before his release last week, after the 17-year-old bench warrant surfaced
  • The judge imposed a condition that if Barrier doesn't comply with rules of his probation, he could face months in jail

Rapper and actor Eric B. was sentenced to a year's probation Friday stemming from a motor vehicle stop and police chase that occurred nearly 19 years ago but wasn't resolved because he failed to show up for his sentencing.

Eric B., whose real name is Eric Barrier, spent two weeks in the Bergen County jail before his release last week, after the 17-year-old bench warrant surfaced when he was returning to the U.S. from Canada.

Barrier, accompanied by several friends who spoke on his behalf during the sentencing, said afterward that state Superior Court Judge James Guida was "firm but fair." The 54-year-old New York City native apologized during a brief statement to the court.

"I'm glad it's over," he said outside the courthouse.

Eric B. and Rakim are known as one of the greatest hip-hop duos of all time. Barrier most recently has been on the CBS show "Blue Bloods." Barrier said he currently is touring and was heading to a show in Delaware.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Ron McCormick had argued for a jail term, though he conceded that the original 364-day sentence Barrier faced in 2002 "probably is not appropriate."

McCormick argued that sentencing Barrier to probation would send the message to other defendants that they could skip sentencing, lead a productive life and come back years later to get a better deal.

"I don't think that's justice, I don't think it's fair, I don't think it's a deterrent," he said.

Guida apparently was sympathetic to a degree, as he imposed a condition that if Barrier doesn't comply with rules of his probation over the next nine months, he will spend the last three months in jail.

Barrier has claimed that his attorney at the time, Paul Bergrin, told him he didn't have to attend the original sentencing because he'd been accepted into a pretrial diversion program that would allow him to avoid jail. On Friday, Guida said he viewed the claim skeptically.

Bergrin is currently serving multiple life terms after being convicted of racketeering and conspiring to murder a witness against one of his other clients.

Barrier's current attorney, Patrick Toscano, said Barrier has traveled abroad extensively and the bench warrant never came up, and that the first time it did, Barrier turned himself in.

According to a police report read in court by Guida, Barrier was stopped in northern New Jersey, just outside New York, in January 2001 when police noticed his Range Rover didn't have front license plates or an inspection sticker. When they pulled him over, he exited his car but eventually drove away and led several officers on a chase, and hit several cars including police vehicles, according to the report.

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