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Witnesses in music professor’s case admit to lying to officials

February 17, 2012

The two teenagers who brought charges against UW-River Falls Music Professor Thomas W. Barnett admitted to lying to law enforcement officials according to motions filed at the final pre-trial hearing for Barnett on Feb. 13.

In the motions granted by Judge Eric Lundell, the two teenagers involved in the case admitted to lying about having sexual contact with each other the night of the alleged incident.

The witnesses had previously testified in a preliminary hearing that they did not have sexual contact. However, a Wisconsin Crime Lab report directly contradicts those statements and says that sexual contact did occur. The two have since admitted to lying to law enforcement officials, according to the court motions.

At the hearing, DNA evidence from the Wisconsin Crime Lab also excluded Barnett as a possible contributor.

Defense attorney Timothy O’Brien said that this information from the Wisconsin Crime Lab has not yet been introduced as evidence, but certainly will be at the jury trial, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the St. Croix County Circuit Court in Hudson.

The motion at the final pre-trial also states that the primary focus of the jury will be to examine why the witness would accuse Barnett of sexual assault after Barnett had originally approached the two teenagers taking part in sexual activity, according to the motion.

Jury selection will begin on Feb. 28. 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.

O’Brien also said he expects the trial to last for two day and that at least five or six witnesses in total may be called. The witnesses could include the boy involved in the incident, the complaining witness, the police, Barnett and the people involved at the Hudson Theatre.

According to the complaint, Barnett approached the girl and her then 14-year-old boyfriend after their movie was finished. Authorities allege Barnett identified himself as part of the security for the movie theater, and said that he needed to speak to the girl alone.

According to the complaint, Barnett said he had video footage of the girl and her boyfriend at the theater, and that he would post it on the news and Internet unless she let him touch her.

After the alleged incident, Barnett left the theater, as the complaint states. After the girl reported the incident, the complaint states that an adult witness saw Barnett talking to the girl as they left the auditorium. Later, witnesses stated that students from UWRF who worked at the theater identified the accused man as Barnett.

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. Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor, said that the University is conducting its own separate report to determine the employment status of Barnett.

District Attorney Francis Collins, who is representing the state of Wisconsin in the case, was unavailable for comment.