A judge in Cook County has cleared a cop on charges of molesting a colleague’s 9-year-old child, after being unable to decide if kissing and reaching into the child’s shorts was a “sexual act.”
Instead of convicting Chicago police sergeant Dennis Barnes, 63, on the charges of felony attempted predatory criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse, Judge Charles Burns convicted him of the lesser charge of misdemeanor battery and the officer’s only punishment will be “up to two years” of sex offender counseling and 60 days in jail. Barnes will also undergo an evaluation to determine if he has pedophile tendencies.
“I don’t believe this was incidental contact,” the judge himself stated. “I don’t believe it was an accident.”
Judge Burns also admitted that “something was going on, and that’s something that I find disturbing.”
Prosecutors had asserted that Barnes had been “grooming” the young girl, after her mother, who is also a Chicago police officer, invited him to her home for a barbecue. While at the child’s home, he had began massaging the young child’s feet and legs, and then reached into her shorts. Luckily, the girl’s mother walked in and the child began to cry and tell her what Barnes had done.
“(Barnes) told the victim that he was her mother’s boss,” Assistant State’s Attorney Tracy Senica told the judge. “And she testified that she didn’t scream because she didn’t want to get her mom into trouble.”
Barnes testified that he was intoxicated at the time of the incident, and that it “was an accident.”
“I’m deeply, deeply regretful,” Barnes told the judge. “Whatever it was, was an accident, but I feel sorry for her.”
The child’s mother, who has remained unnamed to protect the identity of her child, believes the judge’s decision was biased because Barnes is a police officer. She told the Chicago Tribune that she does not believe an average citizen would have received such a light sentence.
“I mean I’ve never heard of anybody being charged with two felony sexual charges and then getting a misdemeanor battery,” the heartbroken mother told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve never heard of that, and I’ve been doing this job a long time.”
“I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it because of all the evidence,” she tearfully told the Tribune. “The judge even admitted that it disgusted him, so why would you say it’s only a misdemeanor battery?”
According to the mother, her child has become withdrawn and has began suffering from chronic nightmares and wetting her bed. After months of counseling, her mother says she has finally “being able to accept the fact that all policemen aren’t monsters.”
Her daughter, who once aspired to be a police officer like her mother, now still asks her mother not to allow other members of law enforcement into their home.
Sexual misconduct is the second highest of all complaints nationwide against police officers, representing 9.3 percent in 2010, according to an unofficial study by the Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project.
In 2010, 354 of the 618 complaints, more than half, involved non consensual sexual acts — and the majority of those involved where minors.
Barnes, who was an officer for 27 years, resigned from the force three months after he was charged.