Jun 18, 2016

Cult leader Victor Barnard back in Minnesota to face charges

Extradited from Brazil, he is now in the Pine County jail.

By Liz Sawyer
Star Tribune
JUNE 18, 2016

Cult leader Victor Barnard has been extradited from Brazil and was booked into the Pine County jail on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

Barnard, now 54, who led the River Road Fellowship near Finlayson, Minn., faces 59 counts of first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He is accused of raping girls and young women from his isolated congregation, victims he called "maidens."

His accusers have said he twisted biblical passages to convince them that a sexual relationship with their pastor was just as much God's will as it was for King Solomon to have concubines.

Barnard fled to Brazil, was captured in February 2015 and had been imprisoned there ever since.

Even though that nation's Supreme Court had approved Barnard's extradition back to Minnesota, a dispute between Brazilian and U.S. authorities over any potential sentence delayed the move for several months. There had been concerns among U.S. authorities that the delay could last up to three years.

Barnard left his start-up community in 2010 under a cloud of suspicion about his behavior during his years at the head of the River Road Fellowship.

In 2012, two former followers approached the Pine County Sheriff's Office to report that he had begun a sexual relationship with them when they were 12 and 13 and that the abuse had continued for years.

The county charged Barnard in 2014, setting off an international manhunt. He was arrested in a Brazilian resort town, where he was sheltering with one of his former maidens — a follower from a wealthy Brazilian family.

After more than a year in jail, Barnard himself requested the extradition back to Minnesota, his attorney said.

Media in Brazil reported in November that Barnard was hospitalized after an apparent suicide attempt from which he has apparently recovered.

Marsh Halberg, Barnard's defense attorney, said last month that one condition of the Brazilian court was that any potential sentence for Barnard in the United States not exceed 30 years, which is the maximum he would receive if prosecuted and convicted in that South American country.

Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson said even if Barnard were convicted of only a fraction of the counts against him, he'd be looking at the prospect of living out his life in prison.


No comments: