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Barnett pleads not guilty in sexual assault case

November 10, 2011

Music Professor Thomas W. Barnett pleaded not guilty Thursday in St. Croix County Circuit Court in Hudson to charges of second degree sexual assault of a minor and false imprisonment. The charges stem from an alleged incident at the Hudson Theatre on Aug. 16.

Barnett’s attorney then asked Judge Eric Lundell for a speedy trial. Even though Assistant District Attorney Francis Collins, who is representing the state of Wisconsin in the case against Barnett, urged otherwise, Lundell granted the speedy trial request. This means a trial must take place within the next 90 days.

At Thursday’s arraignment, there was also a dispute over a subpoena requesting Barnett’s personnel records from UW-River Falls. Both sides concurred that the University had sent the records, but attornet Timothy O’Brien, who is representing Barnett, said that he had not received all of the records.

The University responded by saying that some parts of Barnett’s records were withheld to comply with students’ privacy rights under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The University noted that students’ names may have been in the records that were withheld, and making them public would violate the law.

This led to a requested remedy by O’Brien, with Collins’ approval, for the records to be sealed for the judge and the attorneys to review at a later date. During that meeting, both sides will determine if there is anything worth noting that could be brought forth as the hearing proceeds.

UWRF Human Resources Manager Tarra Davies-Fox and Andriel Dees from the Office of Equity and Affirmative Action were present at the arraignment, as requested by the supeona, to present about 15p pages of personnel records to Lundell.

A status conference will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, to determine what the next course of action will be.