SANTA CRUZ -- The first person in Santa Cruz County to be sentenced under new sentencing guidelines established in AB 109 was back in court Wednesday on a new felony drug charge.
Brian Chris Eaton, 37, was arrested Monday on Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz on suspicion of violating probation and possessing a usable amount of heroin. Police found him passed out.
Eaton pleaded guilty to the charge and will be sent to drug court for observation.
Judge Ariadne Symons warned him about the dangers of continuing to use heroin, admonishing him that if he doesn't kick the habit, "you could die."
In October 2011, Eaton was sentenced to three years in Santa Cruz County Jail without the possibility of serving it at half-time. In a letter to the Sentinel, Eaton explained that the sentence worked out to be longer than what he would have gotten pre-AB 109. Prior to the sentencing changes, people such as Eaton would have been sentenced to state prison, where inmates are eligible to serve just 50 percent of their sentence based on good behavior.
Symons later decided to reduce Eaton's sentence, acknowledging that he hadn't done well on probation but explaining that she didn't think the original sentence was right.
At the time, Symons said that while the original sentence was legal and as required by law, she felt it was wrong. She reduced Eaton's sentence to two years in County Jail and said she hoped he'd take the opportunity to start fresh. She urged him to take advantage of the drug programs available to him at Rountree Lane correctional facility in Watsonville.
Eaton appeared on the county's 'Most Wanted' list in August 2011 because he was wanted on a warrant out of Capitola for theft and drug possession. He turned himself in the next month.
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