That's not justice

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board September 02, 2011 05:15 pm

We’re disappointed that convicted sex offender Dean Barnes’ prison term for abusing two teenage girls in Baker City was cut nearly in half earlier this year.

And we’re dismayed that 13 local residents signed letters supporting the reduction in Barnes’ sentence from more than 16 years to 10 years.

Barnes’ original sentence, handed down by Baker County Circuit Court Judge Greg Baxter in 2009, is appropriate.

Barnes pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, one count of second-degree sexual abuse and two counts of third-degree sexual abuse.

The letter-writers, by advocating for a shorter sentence, diminish the severity of Barnes’ crimes and the harm he caused to his two victims.

Krista Shipsey, a Portland attorney who represented Barnes in his appeal of Baxter’s original sentence, said the letters described Barnes as “a good man who made a very poor choice during an isolated time in his life.”


He didn’t just make a very poor choice.

He committed terrible crimes. Among them two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, an offense that Oregon voters, when they approved Measure 11 more than a decade ago, decided should be punished with a mandatory minimum prison term of 75 months.

Baxter sentenced Barnes to serve the two 75-month sentences back to back — clearly what voters intended with Measure 11.

Baxter had the legal authority to do so even though Barnes had agreed to a plea deal, submitted by his court-appointed attorney, Gary Kiyuna, which called for Barnes to serve the 75-month sentences concurrently — effectively cutting his sentencing by 75 months.

Unfortunately, neither Barnes nor Kiyuna objected when Baxter, despite the wording in the plea deal, ordered Barnes to serve the 75-month sentences one after the other.

Baxter, in explaining why he changed Barnes’ sentence, pointed out that the plea deal didn’t make it clear that the judge was not required to make Barnes’ prison terms concurrent.

Baxter emphasized, though, that he was not at all persuaded by the letter-writers who vouched for Barnes’ character.

Neither are we.

Sadly, the result is the same.

Barnes didn’t get away with his crimes, to be sure.

But he will get out of prison six years too soon.

That’s not justice.