GOSHEN — A judge has dismissed four counts of child molesting against a Goshen man, saying the state waited too long to tell him about the charges.
Paul Barnett was charged in February 2015 with four counts of child molesting as a Class C felony, based on a disclosure made by a young boy in late 2013. A judge ruled Feb. 12 that too much time had passed between the date the charges were filed and when an attempt was made to notify him and transport him to Elkhart County to face charges.
Judge Teresa Cataldo, Elkhart County Superior Court 3, made the ruling following a Nov. 20 hearing involving the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office and Barnett’s attorney.
According to the judge’s order:
Barnett was arrested in January 2013 in Marion County and extradited to Virginia to face charges. In October 2013, he was found guilty of two counts of forcible sodomy of a victim under age 13, two counts of aggravated sexual battery of a victim under age 13 and a count of indecent liberties involving a victim under age 15.
He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with 17 years suspended, in February 2014 in Virginia.
Meanwhile, in late 2013, a 12-year-old boy in Elkhart County alleged he had been inappropriately touched in summer 2011 and 2012 by an adult who worked at a day care center he had attended. The state of Indiana investigated the allegations and filed charges against Barnett in January 2015.
A warrant for his arrest followed in February 2015, with bond set at $30,000. An attempt to serve the warrant at his mother’s home in Goshen was made on May 3, 2018.
Between May and July, a series of filings were made by Barnett, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office preparing to transport him to Elkhart County to address his new charges. Then on July 20, Barnett filed a motion to dismiss the charges.
His attorney argued that his right to a speedy trial under the 6th Amendment was violated because of the “arbitrary delay” between the filing of the charging information in January 2015 and his being notified of the charges by detainer in May 2018. Prosecutors didn’t dispute that about three years and three months passed between the two events, and he contended that the delay justified dismissing the case.
The prosecutor’s office argued it was “highly likely” Barnett knew about the investigation and pending charges because he was aware that Elkhart County officials had communicated with Virginia officials in 2014, according to Cataldo’s ruling. But the judge decided that wasn’t enough to put Barnett on notice that formal charges were ultimately filed against him in Elkhart County in January 2015.
“It is not incumbent upon the Defendant to do anything, and it is irrelevant whether the Defendant may have assumed criminal charges would be forthcoming based on the Elkhart County investigation,” she wrote.
Cataldo found that the state of Indiana was negligent in prosecuting Barnett. She noted that officials were aware that he was incarcerated in Virginia but made no attempt to give reasonable notice after the charges were filed, until three years later, and took no steps to secure his return to Indiana until after he asked to be returned to dispose of the new charges.
She also found that the delay may have hurt Barnett’s potential defense at trial, since he was unaware of the charges and had no reason to try to locate or preserve witness testimony or evidence.