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Judge continues preliminary hearing for professor charged with sexual assault

October 4, 2011

The preliminary hearing for UW-River Falls music Professor Thomas William Barnett, who is charged with second degree sexual assault of a minor, will be continued next week.

On Tuesday in St. Croix County Circuit Court in Hudson, Barnett and his attorney, Timothy O’Brien, and the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Francis Collins, met for what proved to be the first round of the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is to decide if there is probable cause to sustain the charges against Barnett.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Erick Lundell agreed to bar the public from the hour-long testimony from the victim. She is one of five witnesses who are scheduled to testify at the preliminary hearing.

The only other witness who was heard from during Tuesday’s hearing was the 14-year-old former boyfriend of the victim. He testified for about 30 minutes before both sides agreed to continue the hearing at 9 a.m. on Oct. 11.

Barnett is facing charges of second degree sexual assault of a child and false imprisonment following an alleged incident at the Hudson 12 Theatre on Aug. 16, according to the criminal complaint.

If convicted of the sexual assault charge, Barnett could face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a fine of $100,000. The false imprisonment charge could result in a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Barnett is on administrative leave from the University.