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Quick and Dirty

On The Outside

By Chris Landers | Posted 6/11/2008

Kenneth Barnes is out of prison, but the struggle to clear his name goes on ("The Boogeyman of Roland Park," Feature, Aug. 8, 2007).

At the beginning of last week, subscribers to the Maryland State Board of Victim Services' e-mail notification system received a confusing flurry of messages concerning registered sex offender Kenneth Barnes. The system was designed to enable victims of sexual offenders to keep track of criminals and changes in their status in the justice system.

The first set of e-mails, on Monday, June 2, revealed that Barnes had been released from custody that day, followed quickly by a notification of a change in his address. The second set, which went out Tuesday, concerned a man named Julius Barnes. Over the course of one minute (3:57 p.m.), three e-mails were sent to the list stating first that he was out of compliance because his current address couldn't be verified, then that he had changed his address, and finally that he was back in compliance. Although Julius Barnes is listed on the sex-offender registry, he does not seem to exist--rather, Julius Barnes is an alias that Kenneth Barnes (who is not listed by his actual name on the sex-offender registry) seems to have picked up from the Baltimore court system.

What really happened last week is that Kenneth Earl Barnes Jr., 46, was released from prison Friday, May 30, picked up by his stepfather, and returned to his mother's house in Catonsville, where he is staying for the time being.

Barnes has been imprisoned since last year on charges that he failed to change his address with the registry, as he has been required to do since 1998, when he pleaded guilty to molesting a then 8-year-old girl. He violated his parole by hanging around sno-ball stands in and around North Baltimore. His supporters, who include his original accuser--who now says she lied when she accused Barnes of molesting her in 1996--say he is an innocent man ("Sex, Lies, and Legal Red Tape," Mobtown Beat, Dec. 5, 2007).

Patricia Winchild, Barnes' mother and legal guardian, says her son, who is mentally disabled and receives benefits from Veterans Affairs, is nervous and paranoid from his ordeal in 2005, when residents of his Roland Park neighborhood began a letter-writing campaign to incarcerate him after he was seen at area sno-ball stands.

Barnes didn't want to speak to City Paper for this article. He was in solitary confinement during most of his time in prison, and Winchild says other inmates threatened his life after seeing a news report about his case on television.

Winchild says they intend to fight to clear him of the original charges. Barnes' suit against the Maryland Parole Commission was dismissed last month in Baltimore Circuit Court on technical grounds, but a case seeking to overturn his original conviction has yet to be decided.

Last month, Barnes' lawyer Edward Smith Jr. took a deposition from Barnes' original accuser, Marian (because of the nature of the case, and her youth at the time of the incident, City Paper has not printed Marian's last name). In it, she repeats information she gave to a City Paper reporter and to an investigator working for Winchild--that her allegations against Barnes were invented to sabotage his relationship with her older sister. According to a transcript of the deposition, she tells Smith, "It is time for me to be an adult, be a young lady about it and come forward and speak the truth, that he is not a pedophile. That he has never done anything in any way, shape or form to harm me at all."

Winchild says she wants the conviction overturned and off her son's record because she fears the reaction of Roland Park residents to his presence in the neighborhood will be repeated elsewhere. "I'm so worried that something else will happen to him," she says. "He's a character. He's not easy to talk to, but he's so harmless it's sad."

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