A former Minnesota minister has been charged with 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct allegedly committed against two girls while they were in his care at a “religious” camp in Finlayson, Minnesota. Pine County prosecutors levied the criminal counts against 52-year-old Victor A. Barnard. The local sheriff says the charges relate to just two of the females who attended the camp and other victims are likely to come forward which would prompt more charges. Authorities believe Barnard lured the girls to the camp called “River Road Fellowship” under the auspices that it was a religious retreat for young girls who aspired to be “maidens” who would hold a special position of honor- including remaining virgins; the criminal complaint alleges otherwise and suggests a cult-like atmosphere. The defendant, last known to be in the Spokane, Washington area, remains at large- nation-wide warrants have been issued for his arrest. Pine County is located about an hour from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
COMMENT: The age of consent, for sexual purposes, in Minnesota is 16-years-of-age. However, as is true in many states, if the actor (defendant) is in a “position of authority” over the person (minister, teacher, counselor, employer, etc.), the person must be 18. Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is the most serious charge for such conduct in Minnesota. Multiple charges can be alleged for different acts at different times. Minnesota has “Sentencing Guidelines” in place which is intended to provide even justice for all offenders. The guideline sentence for criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is 144 months; however, in this case, there are at least two victims who would permit sentences for both. Moreover, a judge can sentence higher or lower than the recommended guidelines where there are compelling circumstances. The defendant is presumed to be innocent.
UPDATE: BARNARD ARRESTED IN BRAZIL
NY Daily Photo credited to AP
Victor Arden Barnard (53), was arrested in the Pipa Beach costal area in Brazil on Saturday where he was staying with a 33-year-old-Brazillian woman who had once lived in the United States. The arrest had been coordinated through the United States Marshal’s Office, Brazillian military, and state police. Details of his return to the U.S. have not been fully disclosed although he is being detained in Natal, Brazil.
UPDATE: PINE COUNTY, MN– October 29, 2016, Victor Barnard pleaded guilty to two counts of felony sexual assault, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the sexual assaults. The maximum penalty for a first-degree criminal sexual count in Minnesota is thirty years. It is not clear why Barnard accepted the deal to such a lengthy sentence.
Lindsay Tornambe and Jess Schlinsky, victims in the case, delivered victim impact statements Friday in a Pine County courtroom crowded with media and supporters. “I used to see Victor as this powerful and monstrously strong man,” Tornambe said. “I am his downfall. … He cannot break me. … He is the one that is weak. He will be known all over the world as a sexual predator,” the star/tribune reported.
Defense attorney Marsh Halberg said Barnard pled because “he didn’t want to put the victims and the community through an ugly process that would have had family testifying against family, maiden testifying against maiden.” However, Tornambe and Schlinsky said after the sentencing that they didn’t believe that. “I think he wants to cover himself and his followers,” Schlinsky said. “It’s very cowardly. It’s offensive because we are completely prepared and want our story to be told … he doesn’t want the details told,” the star/tribune said.