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Domestic CP - October 2008
Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, WI, 17 October 2008
Pastor's alleged paddling of son center of debate in court
By Shannon Green
The question of whether paddling a youngster hard enough to cause bruises is child abuse was up for debate Thursday in a Columbia County courtroom.
The issue is at the heart of a case against a Poynette pastor who was charged in June with child abuse after authorities say he used a paddle to strike his 12-year-old son as punishment for lying.
Barry W. Barnett Jr., 43, remains free on a $10,000 signature bond on a charge of felony physical abuse of a child.
Barnett's son, testifying at the hearing, said his father had given him two "swats" on his buttocks with a paddle that hurt "a little." He said both he and his father cried during the paddling.
The boy said he understands why he was disciplined.
"He gave me a chance to tell him the truth, and I just kept lying to him," he said.
He also testified that he had been warned that he might be paddled as a consequence for bad behavior, and that he learned from the experience.
"You should not lie to your parents and you should not go to places (where you are not allowed)," he said.
If Barnett is found guilty of the charge, he faces up to three years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
A teacher of one of the boy's siblings brought the case to the attention of social services.
A Divine Savior Healthcare emergency department report from a June 7 examination of the boy, submitted as evidence by Barnett's defense team, stated that the boy had faint bruises on his buttocks at the time but no swelling, and he was not in pain. It said the boy does not think he was abused, that he loves his father and feels safe at home. The report also stated that the doctor does not believe the incident was child abuse and that the incident was a "social services fiasco."
Barnett, the father of nine children, is a minister at Lighthouse Family Ministries in Poynette and founder and administrator of Guardian Christian Academy in Poynette.
Testimony at the hearing focused in part on a consideration of what is "reasonable discipline," which is permitted under Wisconsin statutes by a parent or someone acting as a parent to the child, said Barnett's defense attorney, Gerald W. Mowris of Madison.
Often defined as what a reasonable person feels is necessary, the extent of what is reasonable can vary depending on the age and sex of the child, the extent of discipline and the circumstances under which the discipline was given, Mowris said. A parent who disciplines a child while angry or upset has less of a chance of meeting the "reasonable discipline" standard, for example.
The paddling of a 12-year-old boy hard enough to leave bruises is not reasonable, District Attorney Jane Kohlwey said.
"We feel that he went beyond reasonable discipline and that it's a pattern," Kohlwey said.
The issue was not settled at the Thursday hearing and will be considered again next week; more time was required for attorneys to present evidence to Judge Daniel S. George, who is hearing the case.
As part of his bond, Barnett cannot have any disciplinary physical contact with any child.
Copyright © 2008 Wisconsin State Journal
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