There have been many stories in the news recently about sex offenders who have received only a few months in prison or otherwise “light” sentences. When these stories come out, they tend to stay in the news for a while, and often people protest over the injustice of it or even try to implement laws to make punishments for sex offenders more severe.
In Minnesota, however, the headlines right now are telling a completely different story. In Hermantown earlier this month, a sex offender received the longest sentence that St. Louis County has given out since sentencing guidelines were implemented in the 1980s – and he still has more charges to defend!
Six Charges, Sixty Years
Brian Arthur Barthman was found guilty on three charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of second-degree criminal sexual assault last March. He was arrested after a pre-teen girl came forward to officials at her school, accusing Barthman of touching her inappropriately, forcing her to have intercourse, and offering her drugs and explicit videos and photos. The crimes happened more than once, and the girl was unable to say exactly when the abuse began.
Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend that individuals who are guilty on one count of 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct go to prison for 90 months (7½ years). Individuals who are guilty on a single count of 1st degree criminal sexual conduct face up to 144 months (12 years) in prison.
Add both of those up and you get just under 20 years behind bars, but Barthman, 47, will be behind bars for 60 years. Most likely, he will die in prison.
This is the longest sentence the county has seen in decades. However, even though he is essentially facing a life sentence, Barthman’s woes are not over yet. He also faces federal child pornography charges.
In October, Barthman was indicted for allegedly possessing child porn that included hundreds of images of children as the victims of violence and sexual abuse. He has pleaded not guilty, and will head to trial to fight the charges in June. If found guilty, he could face at least another decade added on to his sentence, because federal child pornography charges come with mandatory minimum jail sentences.
Again, Barthman will probably die in prison, but even if he were sentenced to a few years and released before his death, his record would still follow him, and he would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
With the preponderance of “light” penalties showcased by the media, it is even more important to highlight situations where offenders get truly severe punishments to remind people how serious these crimes really are, and how much their lives can be impacted.
What Determines Sentences for Sex Crimes?
The child pornography charges against Barthman are a federal matter, but his 60-year sentence came from Minnesota courts. Our state does not take sexual assault cases lightly, and it is not always easy for a judge to figure out how long a guilty offender should stay behind bars. The state’s guidelines, and long list of criminal offenses for sex crimes, do help to provide a framework for this sentencing, however.
When it comes to criminal sexual conduct, Minnesota has five different degrees of charges. 5th degree criminal sexual conduct only requires sexual contact or lewd conduct. 1st degree criminal sexual conduct includes forceful sexual penetration with a victim that is under the age of 13.
In between these two offenses, the following factors will determine how the offender is charged (and ultimately, sentenced):
- Whether sexual penetration or contact occurred
- Age of the victim/age of the perpetrator
- Whether violence or force was used
- Whether the victim was injured during the crime
- The victim’s relationship to the perpetrator
- Whether the victim was mentally or physically incapacitated at the time
Once the charges are laid out and the trial has come to a conclusion, other factors will help judges determine whether the offender will receive the higher or lower recommended end of the sentence. Factors like the offender’s past criminal history, their behavior in court, and willingness to accept rehabilitation will play a part in how long the offender will be put behind bars.
In addition to prison time, sex offenders may find themselves facing the following consequences:
- Heavy fines
- A spot on Minnesota’s sex offender registry
- Predatory Offender Assessment and Treatment
- Conditional Release
If you are charged with sex crimes, you may be able to get a good estimate for the penalties you are facing, but guilty parties won’t know their exact sentence until it is read by a judge. Knowing the different factors that play into sentencing, however, can help you work toward a shorter sentence by showing you where your attorney needs to cast doubt on the prosecution’s arguments to prevent them from proving specific aspects of their case.
Bottom line? You need to fight your charges with the strongest defense possible.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).