December 8, 2008

Ex-karate teacher Paul Daniel Barr found guilty of molesting 13-year-old

December 8, 2008

By Mark Morey, Yakima (WA) Herald-Republic

Jurors came within one vote of convicting a former Yakima karate instructor of raping a 13-year-old girl, but they settled for a lesser molestation charge to avoid deadlocking, the panel's foreman said Monday. The jurors -- three men and nine women -- in the trial against Paul Daniel Barr announced their verdict Monday afternoon in Yakima County Superior Court.

Barr, 45, was convicted of two counts of second-degree molestation, which were offered as lesser alternatives to the initial child rape charges. A sentencing date was not set. Jury foreman Brian Goodell said jurors, who got the case Friday afternoon, had staked out their positions by the time they went home for the weekend. The holdout juror didn't change her mind despite repeated questioning by her colleagues, Goodell said.

"There's no way that he shouldn't have been convicted of rape," Goodell said. "I'm actually very disappointed in the justice system right now." The juror, whom Goodell declined to name, appeared to struggle with the idea that an older man could have raped a 13-year-old, the foreman said.

She also had difficulty with the timeline surrounding the allegations, which Goodell said was prompted by the way defense attorney Brian Connaughton phrased his questions about that aspect of the case.

Barr, now 45, was accused of fondling and abusing the girl in 2002 at the Yakima School of Karate, where he was an instructor and she was a student.

Connaughton countered that the case lacked corroborating witnesses or physical evidence. He challenged the girl's testimony, saying that her story changed multiple times and that her account of time frames was confusing at best.

Prosecution witnesses said Barr was often seen doing inappropriate stretching exercises with the girl. Another prosecution witness, who was then 16, testified that she had sex with Barr around the same time.

Connaughton said afterward that a new trial may be requested on appeal.

Deputy prosecutor Patti Powers said she was still calculating Barr's potential sentence, which includes special findings on both counts that he was in a continuing relationship with an underage victim and abused his position of trust.

In the other two pending cases, Barr is accused of possessing explicit pictures of two teenage girls who spent time at his house in Moxee, as well as taking indecent liberties with one of them. One had pictures of her taken in the bathroom, apparently through a hole or keyhole; the other girl was photographed while passed out after drinking. The girls told police they were between 14 and 16 years old at the time.

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