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Jury acquits McHenry man of child sex abuse charges

60-year-old awaits sentencing on domestic battery convictions

James Barnard, 60, of McHenry
James Barnard, 60, of McHenry

A McHenry man was acquitted on Thursday of child sexual abuse charges after he was accused of inappropriately touching an underage female relative in 2017.

After about 3½ hours of deliberation, jurors on Thursday afternoon found 60-year James Barnard guilty of two misdemeanor counts of domestic battery, a probationable offense typically punishable by less than one year in jail. Jurors also returned not guilty verdicts for three additional counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. If Barnard had been convicted of the latter charge, he would have faced between three and seven years in prison.

Barnard’s attorney, Henry Sugden, said neither Barnard nor his family wished to comment, but noted that they were “pleased” with the jury’s verdict.

Police arrested Barnard, of the 1800 block of Kerry Lane, in January 2018 after receiving a report that he licked and inappropriately touched a then-11-year-old relative. The three alleged instances of abuse occurred on Nov. 1 and Nov. 28, 2017, prosecutors said.

Barnard has denied sexually abusing the girl and testified that he only gave her a kiss goodbye and a back massage at the time of the allegations.

“Jim Barnard is not a child abuser,” Sugden said during closing arguments on Thursday. “Jim Barnard is not a sex offender. Jim Barnard is not a criminal.”

The trial, which began on Tuesday, concluded Thursday with testimony from Barnard’s doctor, neurologist Robert Kohn.

Kohn spoke to the impulse control issues, partial memory loss, and sexual preoccupation that Barnard has experienced since a 2014 crash that left him with a traumatic brain injury.

“Sometimes he doesn’t remember things that are done,” Kohn said.

The doctor continued that Barnard’s brain injury makes him more likely to act on impulse without inhibitions, although Barnard never expressed a sexual interest in children. He did, however, seem to have an obsession with pornography and sex, “the way a teenager is,” Kohn said.

The traumatic brain injury might explain Barnard’s behavior but it doesn’t excuse it, prosecutors said.

“This isn’t a mistake,” McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Taylor Nesbit said during closing arguments on Thursday. “This is not just a kiss on the the cheek. This is sexually deviant.”

A sentencing hearing on the domestic battery counts is scheduled to take place 1:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the McHenry County Courthouse in Woodstock.

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