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Monday, April 14, 2008

Despite admission, defendant escapes assault charges

By Jean Matheson/Contributor

Jurors heard a 76-year-old town of Lafayette man readily admit that he sexually assaulted at least 10 children more than 20 years ago. And they heard him calmly admit he photographed some of the assaults.

But that wasn't the issue before the jury during the trial in Walworth County Circuit Court. Jurors were to decide if Bruce T. Barker was guilty of 14 felony counts of possessing child pornography.

The jury on Tuesday returned guilty verdicts on all of the charges in only 45 minutes, after a two-day trial. Barker will be sentenced May 29. Each count of possessing child pornography carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine upon conviction.

Barker could not be charged with sexually assaulting the children, many of them young relatives of his, because most of those acts occurred in the 1980s when the statute of limitations on child sexual assault was six years. The state Legislature has since extended the limit to 35 years.

"Given the number of victims and the volume of sexual assaults that can't be punished, it's gratifying that we were able to obtain convictions on these (child pornography) charges," District Attorney Phil Koss said after the trial.

A 32-year-old man who is related to Barker testified that Barker sexually assaulted him at least six times when he was 8 to 10 years old and he eventually reported the abuse to authorities in December 2006.

The man said he was prompted to come forward because he was concerned about the children of another relative.

"Their parents didn't believe Bruce was a threat, and I was concerned the kids were in the house alone with him ... He's a pedophile and he assaulted me a number of times," the man said.

The man also testified Barker took photographs of him during the sexual assaults and he saw Barker put the Polaroid photos in a shoe box that he hid in his basement.

Two sheriff's detectives, alerted about the man's allegations, testified about executing a search warrant at Barker's home in the Alpine Valley area in January 2007.

Detective John Ennis said he discovered two boxes of pornographic photographs of Barker with children hidden in the insulation in Barker's basement.

Detective Robert Sharp testified about interviewing Barker at his home while Ennis searched the house. Barker at first denied sexually abusing children or photographing them, he said. But after the photos were discovered, Barker suggested someone may have "planted" them, Sharp said.

Barker showed no emotion testifying in his own defense on the final afternoon of the trial.

"These sexual assaults, they did occur?" asked defense attorney Larry Steen.

"Yes," Barker responded.

"You took numerous photographs that were pornographic?" Steen asked.

"Yes" Barker answered.

Asked why he kept the photos, Barker said he thought he had burned all of them.

Barker said he was a life-long bachelor who had always lived in the area. He never made it past the fifth grade in school, he testified, and could read but had trouble writing.

Steen argued that Barker should not be convicted because he did not "knowingly" possess child pornography, did not have actual physical control of the photos and believed he had burned them.



Blogger Scott B said...

I Myself am one of the victims of Bruce Barker. I am now 46 years old, Bruce Barker sexually assaulted many times between the years of 1969 -through- 1973.

He knew very well back then that what he was doing was very Illegal and could get him into a lot of trouble, as he would often state this to me in a threatning manner.

He was a monster then, and he is a monster now....

I can only hope and pray that Justice prevails on the 29th.

Scott B.

April 14, 2008 11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott, it was easy finding your Uncle guilty...you are right he is a monster. The jurors and I thought you were so brave to have gone through this and have to relive all over again. God Bless you and your family.

April 24, 2008 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me how this man could still effortlessly blame everyone else for everything that happened, without a shred of remorse or regret (except maybe getting caught).

Fortunately the jury was not carefully selected and groomed by him from the time they were children, so they didn't fall for the manipulation tactics that have become second nature for him.

I just pray that he is put behind bars before he finds the opportunity to be alone with another child. Over a month (until sentencing) is a long time for someone with nothing else to lose to be free to prowl. I'll be keeping a nervous close eye on all the children I know until the 29th.

God bless all the victims and their families. And a huge thank you to the brave ones who were able to tell their stories to the authorities. Your courage to do the right thing has brought awareness to other families, and will help give courage to other victims to come forward and stop other abusers. Our prayers are with you.

April 25, 2008 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce Barker was sentenced to 7 years incarceration, and he was taken into custody.

The judge said no victims requested restitution, and none was assessed.

May 31, 2008 10:37 PM  

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