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Judge disallows uncharged evidence of child porn in sprawling sex assault case against Casper man
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Judge disallows uncharged evidence of child porn in sprawling sex assault case against Casper man

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Sam Barrett

Sam Barrett talks to his attorney during a July court appearance. Barrett is accused of sexually assaulting women after threatening them at gunpoint.

Authorities will not be permitted in the sexual assault trial of a local man to show jurors evidence that indicates the man’s computer was used to access child porn, a judge on Wednesday afternoon ruled.

Prosecutors had sought to show jurors the evidence in order to demonstrate their contention that Samuel Barrett, 39, would have the motive to force a woman at gunpoint to sexually abuse a baby and then use video footage of the abuse to blackmail the woman.

Authorities allege that Barrett has sexually assaulted women over the course of years. He now faces a single count of blackmail, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and seven counts of first-degree sexual assault. He has previously been convicted of a sex crime against one of the alleged victims in the case.

Barrett has pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges he now faces.

He was not, however, charged in connection with the three images whose admission Judge Daniel Forgey denied at the Wednesday hearing. Prosecutors have said that they were not aware of the images found on the computer — and which Barrett is not suspected of producing — until Barrett had already been charged.

Instead of bringing the images as direct evidence of a crime, the assistant district attorneys prosecuting the case sought to use them to reinforce the sexual exploitation and blackmail charges by arguing that they show Barrett has a predilection for child porn and would therefore have motive to produce it.

Barrett on Wednesday appeared in Natrona County District Court free on $100,000 bail seated next to Don Fuller, his defense attorney, and across from Assistant District Attorneys Ava Bell and Kevin Taheri. The defendant and attorneys only spoke briefly during the hearing, however.

The 10-minute hearing was instead solely dedicated to Forgey’s recitation of his ruling on the admissibility of evidence. The judge ultimately determined that although Barrett had used the computer in question far more than any of its other users, there was not a concrete link between Barrett and the images. The judge ruled that a legal standard governing admission of evidence indicating misconduct that hasn’t been charged as a crime would not allow the evidence to be presented at trial.

Jurors, Forgey ruled, might make improper use of the evidence by using it to make a judgement about Barrett’s character, rather than about the crimes with which he’s been charged.

Rob Oldham, one of the two defense attorneys representing Barrett, said earlier this month that admission of the images would deeply damage the defense’s case.

At that hearing, Forgey split rulings on similar issues: The prosecution will be allowed to tell jurors about Barrett’s prior conviction of second-degree sexual abuse. A different woman will not be allowed to testify to another allegation of sexual abuse dating to 2000. That case never went to trial.

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Crime and Courts Reporter

Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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