LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — Prosecutors in Tippecanoe County laid out new details Wednesday in a high-profile neglect case.
The attorney for Michael Barnett argued the judge should dismiss the charges completely.
As News 8 has been reporting on extensively, this case involves Barnett and his ex-wife Kristine who left their adopted daughter alone in an apartment in Lafayette before moving to Canada. The Barnetts say they were the victims of a scam.
Both Michael’s attorney and prosecutors made their case during the hearing of several motions which lasted about an hour Wednesday morning.
The most significant motion was a filing to dismiss one of the neglect charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
The motion hinges on whether this crime was concealed.
Michael Barnett’s attorney, Terrance Kinnard, said because the Barnetts went to court in Marion County in 2012 to get their daughter’s age legally changed, nothing was hidden and so prosecutors had to file by 2014.
They believe the second neglect charge was also filed improperly on a technicality but acknowledged prosecutors could refile.
But prosecutors rebutted with their belief there was active concealment of the crime in several different ways, so the charges are still current.
They said the Barnetts omitted some medical records like a bone scan when they filed to change the age. Also, after living in Hamilton County for the prior three years, they took her to a city where she was a complete stranger, a place far from her school classmates or DCS workers who were familiar with the case.
Of course, Kinnard disagrees.
“I do have some public policy concerns that someone is vertically challenged that makes them disabled,” Kinnard said. “I do find it troubling that the deputy prosecuting attorney believes it can unilaterally usurp its own opinion for that of a learned jurist elected by the public duly elected to make such decisions.”
Cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom and prosecutors declined to make a comment after the hearing.
News 8 also learned Wednesday that a second judge in Marion County actually agreed with the initial age change five years later in 2017. Though more details about that process were not made clear.
For the first time, prosecutors were explicit in saying they believe the Barnetts’ neglect of their daughter was due to age and physical disability of dwarfism, not any mental issues.
It was a clarification Kinnard had asked both Judge Stephen Meyer last week as well as the magistrate judge during their first appearance in court.
Now it’s up to the judge who will consider the case law and issue a written ruling. There’s no deadline but News 8 should be able to get a copy of it.
Kristine Barnett and her attorney were not required to be in court Wednesday because they did not file a motion to dismiss.
Kinnard withdrew a previously filed motion to erase Michael’s home address from the public record saying since it had already been published in places outside the court’s reach, it wasn’t worth fighting for.
The third motion discussed Wednesday involved Kinnard’s subpoenas to various law enforcement agencies for their notes connected to this case including agencies like Westfield police, Crawfordsville police and Indiana State Police.
Prosecutors have filed a motion to quash those subpoenas calling their notes part of their “work product” and protected communications.
As News 8 reported Monday, prosecutors have filed a motion to issue a gag order on this case.
Kinnard said the public has a right to know.
“Me talking to you is what I should be doing to let the public know what’s going on. This isn’t just about Michael Barnett. In any criminal case, the public at large has a right to know what their government is doing,” said Kinnard. “The government is our servant they are not our master. Trying to gag us from keeping the public informed I think is a misstep. I in no way believe this judge will follow that kind of dogma where they would prevent the public from getting information.”
The hearing involving the gag order was set for Monday Oct. 28 at 1 p.m.
The defense attorneys for both Michael and Kristine will need to be there.