Judge Charles Burns of Cook County, Illinois, waived a sexual assault charged against a retired Chicago cop and instead passed down a conviction on the basis of a lesser charge. Dennis Barnes, who had been accused of kissing and fondling a girl under the age of 13, was sentenced to 60 days in jail on a charge of misdemeanor battery, thus acquitting him of charges that included attempted predatory criminal assault of a victim under 13 and aggravated sexual abuse.
Judge Burns admitted “Something was going on, and that’s something I find disturbing,” but said he believed that prosecutors had failed to prove that the 63-year-old former lawman had fondled the girl for the purposes of his own sexual arousal. Even so, the judge said Barnes’s behavior was inexcusable.
Barnes, besides serving two months in jail, will be on two years’ probation as a sex offender. Barnes will have to receive sex offender counseling. He will report for incarceration on April 18. Barnes retired from the force while awaiting trial.
The victim’s mother, who had invited Barnes to her home for a family barbecue when the assault occurred, was furious about the sentence. She said that she believed that prosecutors had all the evidence they needed to convict Barnes on the more serious charges. “The judge even admitted that it disgusted him, so why would you say it’s only a misdemeanor battery?” The mother feels nevertheless that she is responsible for permitting a “child molester” to enter her home. Barnes had been her co-worker and supervisor.
Barnes had been accused of getting under a blanket with the girl and her brother while they watched a movie at the party.
The mother, whose name was not released to protect her daughter, told the court she felt responsible for allowing a “child molester” into her home, but she said Barnes had been a trusted co-worker and supervisor. Prosecutors said Barnes massaged the girl’s feet, placed his hand on her thigh and stomach, and then grabbed her face and demanded a “smooch.” It was the brother who reported his behavior.
According to the mother, the victim became ashamed of her own body, and also developed anxiety attacks, chronic nightmares, and bedwetting. The girl has had months of counseling, and has frequently visited her mother’s place of work in order to overcome her fear of police officers.
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