Jury finds Barnett not guilty in sexual assault case
April 20, 2012
After deliberating for 10 hours the jury in the Thomas W. Barnett case came to a verdict at 10:40 a.m. Saturday, finding the UWRiver Falls music professor not guilty of second-degree sexual assault and false imprisonment.
“I’m so thankful for the jury’s service. I’m sure it was so hard on them and I’m very humbled by their service,” Barnett said after the verdict was announced. “It’s just unbelievable. I’m just so thankful.”
Barnett, a 42-year-old UWRF professor of 10 years from Baldwin, was accused in August 2011 of touching a 13-year-old girl inappropriately at the Hudson Theatre and for falsely identifying himself as theater security.
The court heard evidence in the case on April 11 and 12. Assistant District Attorney Francis Collins, representing the state of Wisconsin, and Barnett’s defense attorney Timothy O’Brien gave closing statements April 13. After Judge Eric J. Lundell read instructions to the jurors, they continued to deliberate until 7:30 p.m. April 13.
The jury was then sent home for the night to return to the courthouse at 9 a.m. April 14 to continue.
After eight months of facing charges that could have sent him to prison for 40 years, Barnett said that he’s glad that it’s over.
“My faith in God is what got me and my family through this,” Barnett said.
During the time of the trial, Barnett had been placed on paid administrative leave. However, it is unclear when or if Barnett will return to UWRF as the University is conducting its own investigation.
Blake Fry, the special assistant to the chancellor said, “State employment law dictates that as an institution we must complete our own investigation into the matter using the guidelines set forth in Chapter UWS 4, and that the outcome of the criminal case can not be the sole reason for the decision we make. With that said, the evidence and testimony put forward over the past four days will certainly inform our investigation.”
(This story was originally published April 16, 2012, and updated April 20, 2012, with the final two paragraphs.)