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Case dismissal, my eye!

Judge drops some charges, but sexual-abuse case to go to trial

Jeffrey Barton, 57, pleads not guilty to all charges.
  • Jeffrey Barton, 57, pleads not guilty to all charges.

The attorney for a man accused of abusing boys at the Army Navy Academy in Carlsbad asked for the case to be dismissed on January 30. The judge declined; however, he did dismiss 3 of the 23 charges that Jeffrey Barton had faced.

Judge Harry Elias

Judge Harry Elias

Superior Court judge Harry Elias found there was incorrect instruction during a previous grand jury hearing (regarding a witness’ credibility) on one count; plus, he declared an insufficiency of evidence for two other counts.

Barton is accused of sexually abusing boys aged 13 to 15 years old. He had been employed at the school since 1994 and was “Head of Schools” when accusations surfaced in June 2013. Barton was arrested in October of 2013 and has been in custody since.

Legal maneuvering by defense continuously postponed and delayed a preliminary hearing — which would have revealed details in the case — until the prosecutor resorted to a grand-jury indictment in May of 2014, according to reliable sources.

Defense attorney Daniel Greene

Defense attorney Daniel Greene

Prosecutor Tracy Prior

Prosecutor Tracy Prior

After the judge dismissed three counts, defense attorney Daniel Greene asked for a reduction in bail, citing the reduction in charges. The judge then reduced bail from $6 million to $5.22 million, calculating the new amount by the percentage of charges that had been reduced.

Barton enjoyed high regard at the military school because he secured “one of the biggest donors in the history” of that institution, according to prosecutor Tracy Prior. The prosecutor has voiced concern in the past that Barton might be able to bail out, even with high bail.

When Barton was brought into court on Friday afternoon he was handcuffed and wearing black-framed glasses and a sparse, gray mustache. He turned 57 years old in November.

Barton’s attorney argued for more than an hour, asking for the entire case to be dismissed. Greene claimed that the grand jury “got one-sided information,” which was not “rebutted,” and that the prosecution had presented hearsay, rumor, and conjecture as evidence.

The defense attorney also stated that Barton had been encouraged by school officials to give “special attention” to one student because his family had assets that could potentially benefit the school financially.

Prior claimed that Barton had given certain boys expensive gifts; for example, a cell phone and surfboard.

During argument, the attorneys seemed to suggest that rumors about Barton went around the school, and at least one student slept with a knife under his bed; that boy allegedly told the grand jury that it was in case Barton tried to enter his room.

It was suggested that some boys refused to eat home-made “baked goods” that Barton offered because there were rumors that he drugged his victims; Barton allegedly became “upset” and even threw “tantrums” at the refusals.

The prosecutor has alleged in prior statements that Barton drugged his victims with “date rape drugs.” The accused man had prescriptions for Zolpidem, Alprazolam, Clonazepam, and Hydrocodone, and some of those drugs were found in his locker, according to prosecution.

Local news media outlets have tried to demand release of the grand jury transcripts, and Judge Elias set a date of February 13 to review those transcripts with attorneys in order to redact sensitive information, in anticipation of eventual release to news media.

Jury selection for this case is now set for May 18. The judge said the trial may last a month.

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Friday's UT carried the headline "Three charges dropped against ex-school headmaster." Without a closer reading, anyone seeing that headline might have assumed that it meant that all the charges had been dismissed, and that he had gone free. Those headlines matter, and need to be carefully written.

This term "headmaster" is an interesting one. It goes back to the old usage of "master" as the term for teacher. The head of the school was then the head teacher, and got the title headmaster. It has spread through private schools in the US over the years mainly because it sounds so Brit and so cultured. But guess what? In Britain the preferred term for a schools top person or executive is now "head teacher."

Just when you think we've caught up with the Brits, they shift gears and leave the rest of us in the cold.

Visduh - They should NOT be considered above any of our laws. In fact more restricted but I don't know how they can plea , hopefully lots of prison time is mandatory for them to fit criminal acts. On children, fuggeddabouddit 2nd chances! I think law is changing with Chelsea, but I know nobody gets another chance to hurt a child near me. Not even one chance.

"The prosecutor has voiced concern in the past that Barton might be able to bail out, even with high bail."

The purpose of bail is supposed to be to ensure appearance, not to ensure that the defendant is kept locked up. Right now, he's innocent. Nothing has been proven. It's a travesty for the system to say, "Well, we think he might be able to make this bail amount, so we need it to be higher."

Well good so you send your children with him when he makes bail.

jnojr, technically you are correct, but bail is used to keep dangerous people under control and out of society. That's what's going on here, and the deputy DA didn't even attempt to hide her motivation, and the judge really didn't reduce the bail significantly. She should have said that if he bailed out he was a flight risk. THAT is considered a reason to keep bail so high that no bail bondsman will go on the hook for it.

For those with long memories, when Craig Peyer was charged with the murder of Cara Knott, he finally made bail, even though it was set at $1 million, a very high figure in that bygone era. It didn't set well with many people that he was home, watching TV, going to the store, and free to move around as he felt like when his guilt was obvious to everyone but a few jurors in his first trial. He'd managed to get sprung when his aged parents mortgaged their home to raise the $100,000 fee to the bail bondsman, and when he was convicted and slapped back in jail, all that money was forfeit. How Barton could raise something in excess of a half-million dollars isn't at all clear. It could be that the DA thinks he has assets and perhaps a means to flee. I'd say he'll stay in the slammer until the trial is over.

A hearing scheduled for today, February 13, 2015, was delayed until February 27. At this next hearing, attorneys and the judge are expected to discuss when transcripts of the grand jury testimony will be released: these have been specifically requested by certain local news media. The trial date is currently for May of this year. Jury selection is expected to begin with a questionnaire in mid-May.

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