The grandmother of John Doe Number One gave testimony yesterday, October 7, in the trial of Jeffrey Barton, who pleads not guilty to 20 felony counts of child abuse.
No Reason to Distrust Him
The soft-spoken woman said that her grandson often came to her home in Coronado on the weekends, and that Jeff Barton sometimes came to her home to take the boy away on outings. The boy’s father had passed away when he was quite young, and his mother lived in another part of California, reportedly with her “new boyfriend,” according to previous testimony, before a grand jury.
The woman said that on one or two occasions, she had invited Barton to her home for dinner because “He was a teacher and he was involved in [her grandson’s] life.” The granny said she had worked as a teacher and she had been to the homes of her own students.
Yet, Something Seemed Wrong
The woman said that at first, she did not find it suspicious that Barton spent so much time with her grandson. But then, “Well, he didn’t want to do things anymore with Mr. Barton and he was clearly upset.”
The boy was a student at the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad during the years 1999 to 2001. Barton was employed there since 1994; he was head of schools at the boys’ military academy just before his arrest in October of 2013.
The witness said that, over time, she noticed a change in her grandson’s attitude: “He wasn’t as willing to go with Mr. Barton.” Particularly, she remembered that it was after a ski trip, when Barton took both her grandson and another boy on the outing, that John Doe Number One became upset. “He was almost crying.”
She said, “We tried to ask him what the matter was and what was happening. He just didn’t want to talk about it.”
Something Was Very Wrong, the Boy Claimed
She said it was when she and her husband and grandson were at a restaurant that the boy declared that Barton had abused him. “We listened to what he had to say,” she testified. She asked if he wanted them to go to police, but the boy told her “No.”
The grandmother said she did not communicate all this to the boy’s mother because he did not want her to. And both she and the boy’s grandfather wanted to be careful, she said, because they did not want to ruin someone’s career. “We told him to be very sure that he was telling the truth.”
Under direct exam by prosecutor Tracy Prior, the grandmother said, “Well, we questioned him some more but he didn’t want to talk about it.” And, “He cried.”
The grandmother’s concern did not go away. “I was worried, I thought maybe something inappropriate was going on.”
Legal Muscle Wrestles Grandmother's Account
The defense team consists of four persons: two attorneys and two law clerks in the courtroom. Lead attorney Daniel Greene brought out on cross-examination that it was sometime after his first year, while the boy was still enrolled in the academy, that John Doe Number One first hinted to his grandmother about abuse. She said, “He alluded to it, yes” but that the boy never specifically said he had been touched; nor did he give any other details at that time.
Attorney Greene questioned the elderly witness’ recall of dates and times.
The witness said she never made a report to the Army and Navy Academy, nor to police, and that her grandson left the academy in 2001. It was after the boy’s grandfather passed away in 2013, when the family was gathered at a memorial for the patriarch, that John Doe Number One made clear abuse allegations. Almost a year after that revelation, the alleged victim told a grand jury that his grandfather was a Marine and was pleased and proud that his grandson was going to a military academy.
Brownies Allegedly Made Victim Forget
This morning, October 8, a young man testified about an outing with Barton during which the schoolmaster offered to him and another boy his homemade brownies. “He said try them out” and “These are my special recipe,” the witness told the jury. He explained that anything homemade was especially attractive to the students. The witness said that he did not remember any more of that night after he ate the treats. There are allegations that Barton drugged his alleged victims.
A jury of six men and six women, plus four alternates, has been hearing evidence for one week, and trial is expected to continue through October.
Barton, now 57, is accused of sexually abusing boys in his care, aged 13 to 15. He has been held in lieu of more than $5 million bail since his arrest two years ago and pleads not guilty to all charges.
The trial continues before Harry Elias in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista.