POMONA – The accused getaway driver in the shooting death of barber Larry Hammett was sentenced this morning to 11 years in state prison.
Breeana Finley’s sentencing in Pomona Superior Court came after Judge Bruce F. Marrs rejected a request by the Los Angeles woman to back out of a plea bargain she struck with prosecutors.
Finley, 21, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in February in the death of Hammett, 46, who was shot and killed July 27, 2008 at the Groom Time barbershop in Pomona in what prosecutors alleged was a robbery.
Though she pleaded no contest in the case, Finley maintained she was innocent and knew nothing of the shooting and alleged robbery either before or after it occurred.
She made a motion to withdraw her plea after a jury in March convicted Hammet’s shooter, Omari Ali, of voluntary manslaughter, and acquitted an alleged accomplice, Keyon Rasheed Hill.
In denying Finley’s motion to withdraw her plea, Marrs said Finley was suffering “buyer’s remorse” following the jury’s verdicts.
“A plea should not be withdrawn because a defendant changes her mind,” Marrs said.
In her trial testimony, Finley said she traveled to Pomona with Ali and Hill to look at apartments in the city. She was pregnant by Ali, her boyfriend, and the couple wanted to have their own home before the child was born, Finley testified.
She said she drove Ali and Hill to Groom Time, 924 E. Holt Ave., because Ali said he wanted to purchase marijuana from Hammett, who sold the drug out of a back office at the barbershop.
Ali said in his testimony that Hammett was the aggressor in the incident that led to his death.
Ali testified that Hammett threatened him with a gun after Ali declined to purchase his marijuana. Ali said he feared for his life, so he grabbed the gun from Hammett and shot at him indiscriminately, hitting him seven times.
Finley maintained in her trial testimony that she drove Ali and Hill back to Los Angeles afterward knowing nothing of the shooting.
Finley’s attorney, Duane Dade, said in court that Finley was urged to take the plea bargain by her father to avoid a life sentence. But she always claimed she was innocent, and was crying when she pleaded no contest Feb. 11, Dade said.
Deputy District Attorney Ian Phan told Marrs that Finley’s decision to enter into a plea bargain was a “calculated move” motivated by worry that she’d be convicted at trial and face a longer sentence.
But Finley “sees Hill’s been acquitted, and she wants to change her mind,” Phan said.
As Finley was led out of court, handcuffed and shackled and wearing blue jail scrubs, she turned to her attorney said, “You just ruined my life, you know that?”
From the audience, Finley’s father said, “You’ll get through it.”