Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Tim Franklin
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Cult leader, sex offender appealing sentence

 


Less than three months after agreeing to a plea deal to serve 30 years in prison, former cult leader and convicted sex offender Victor Arden Barnard is now appealing his sentence to the Court of Appeals.

On Tuesday, January 24, Barnard’s court-appointed public defender, Amy Lawler, sent her notice to appeal the decision to the Clerk of Appellate Courts, State Attorney General Lori Swanson, Court Administrator Lu Ann Blegen and County Attorney Reese Frederickson.

In late October 2016, Barnard was sentenced to serve two consecutive 15-year terms. Counting time already served and good time, Barnard would have to spend at least the next 18 years in prison.

Part of this plea deal also included that Barnard waive his right to appeal the decision in the case. The court filing does not say on what grounds Barnard is appealing the decision, to which he agreed in Pine County Court before Judge P. Hunter Anderson.

In early October 2016, Barnard appeared in court and told the judge he agreed to the plea deal, which also had the support from two of his victims, who brought forward the allegations against Barnard that led to the conviction.

In the plea agreement, Barnard plead guilty to just two of more than 50 charges against him for crimes that happened while he was the leader of River Road Fellowship, that was once based west of Finlayson. All other charges were dropped as part of the agreement.

After that court date, one of Barnard’s attorneys, David Risk, said Barnard sought to spare his victims from testifying in court.

“There is no question he feels terrible for what he did,” Risk said. “He did not want to make things worse.”

“He wanted to do the right thing now,” he added.

At this court hearing, both Judge Anderson and Risk went over many items in the plea agreement and asked Barnard several times if he understood that any appeal would be very difficult if he agreed to plead guilty without going to trial. Each time, Barnard said he understood the agreement.

The charges against Barnard originally came from two victims, who stated they were raped by Barnard when they were the ages of 12 and 13, and part of his chosen group of girls whom he called his “Maidens.” One of the victims reported Barnard said it was his way of being able to show “God’s love.”

In mid-January, it was reported that Barnard was assaulted by another inmate while incarcerated at the state prison in Rush City. Barnard was severely beaten in the attack. At the time, it was also reported that Barnard was on a respirator in the intensive care unit with a broken rib, broken facial bones and a punctured lung.

 

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