Three men who accuse former Army Navy Academy headmaster Jeffrey Barton of molesting them in 1999 while they were students are calling on the San Diego County District Attorney to retry Barton after his conviction was overturned last week by a panel of appellate court judges.
On Friday, July 17, a panel of state appellate judges ordered Barton’s release from prison after finding that Superior Court Judge Harry Elias had failed to provide ample reason in dismissing a juror during Barton’s criminal trial.
It was after the juror’s dismissal that the remaining jurors found Barton guilty on five counts of forced copulation and one count of sodomy on a minor while he was headmaster at the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad.
Elias subsequently sentenced Barton to 48 years in prison.
Since his arrest, Barton has maintained his innocence. In 2018, he appealed the guilty verdict against him.
Reads the appellate court ruling, “We conclude the trial court's decision to discharge Juror No. 12 is not manifestly supported by evidence. Accordingly, we need not address Barton's other contentions on appeal and reverse the judgment.”
Civil attorney Alex Cunny represents three of Barton’s alleged victims in civil cases. Cunny and lead attorney John Manly, whose firm has represented numerous Olympic female gymnasts and other victims of sex abuse, have settled two of the civil cases brought against Barton and the Army and Navy Academy, one of which for $1.79 million. The trial in the third case is scheduled for February 2021.
The attorneys are now calling on District Attorney Summer Stephan to retry Barton and send him back to prison.
“This was something (the victims) were not expecting and it makes them sick,” Cunny told NBC 7 Investigates. “This is a man who took away their innocence. He was put in a position of trust, he was dangerous and he took advantage of these boys who didn’t have their parents around."
Cunny said the alleged victims are willing and able to testify at another criminal trial, which for at least one of the victims would be the third criminal trial against his accused molester.
“Our client wants to see justice done and the perpetrator be held accountable,” he said. “It is not easy for our clients to testify but we urge the district attorney to proceed with a criminal trial.”
According to court records, Barton allegedly began molesting a 14-year-old boy in 1999 while Barton was the student’s homeroom teacher. The following year another teacher at the Army Navy Academy reported issues with the student and Barton’s relationship. The student first denied that any inappropriate behavior had occurred but later told his family that Barton had in fact molested him.
During Barton’s subsequent criminal trial, two additional victims of Barton came forward.
But according to the appellate court’s ruling, Barton was found guilty of only one count of sex crimes against the three alleged victims. Barton was then retried. It was during that second trial that Superior Court Judge Elias erroneously dismissed the juror and Barton was found guilty.
According to a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, their office has “contacted the victims who testified in the case and are working to provide them support. At this time, we are exploring our appellate options, which include retrial.”
Attorneys for Barton who represented him in his appeal did not respond to a request for comment.