A judge on Monday cited the novel coronavirus in postponing the trial of a man accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting women in Natrona County.
Judge Daniel Forgey announced his decision from the bench in Natrona County District Court, minutes after jury selection had been scheduled to begin in the eight-day trial of Samuel Barrett, 39. The judge, in making his decision, cited a rapidly changing set of circumstances, including in Natrona County. In addition to the current possibility of viral transmission, Forgey cited also the anticipated length of the trial.
“Perhaps more concerning, I don’t know what things will look like a week from now,” Forgey said.
The judge did not immediately select a new trial date and the decision came without objection from involved attorneys. Barrett — walking with his defense team — left the courtroom free on $60,000 bond and awaiting a new trial setting. Shortly after the judge’s announcement, approximately five dozen potential jurors streamed from the courthouse and onto Center Street.
Barrett still faces 10 felony charges, including seven counts of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and a single count of blackmail. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri said that he anticipates the trial will be rescheduled when concerns about the virus’ spread have subsided. Barrett had already waived his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial when his lawyers asked for a postponement.
District Court Clerk Anne Volin said mid-Monday morning that concerns about the virus had not yet changed the court’s procedures. She said any decisions about cancellations would be made — at least for the time being — by the individual judges overseeing the hearings.
Prosecutors allege that Barrett on seven different occasions raped four different women. The accusers have provided law enforcement with largely similar accounts: that Barrett invited them into his home, sometimes with the promise of money, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. Once there, the women told police, Barrett demanded sex acts at gunpoint or choked the women, threatening to kill them, court documents filed in the case allege.
Barrett frequently videotaped the assaults, prosecutors allege, and on multiple occasions he threatened the women before demanding they say on camera that they had consented to sex with him, according to the documents.
Prosecutors also allege that Barrett at gunpoint made a woman perform — or pretend to perform — oral sex on an infant. He then videotaped the abuse, authorities allege, and used the recording to blackmail the woman for sexual acts.
Authorities have alleged Barrett assaulted women over the course of years: Charges in the case span from 2012 through his arrest in April 2019. Prosecutors are also expected to reference at trial Barrett’s 2009 conviction for a single count of sexual abuse of a minor.
In the 2009 case, Barrett admitted as part of a deal with prosecutors to having sex with a teenage girl who babysat his children. That girl, who is now an adult, is one of the four women whom Barrett is accused in the current case of sexually assaulting.
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