ALAMOSA — Calling his actions sickening and “absolutely disgusting” but giving him credit for voluntarily obtaining treatment in the last year, District Judge Michael Gonzales on Monday sentenced Jonathan Barton, 45, to 90 days jail and five years probation on a felony attempted sexual assault on a child charge.
The judge gave Barton until 5 p.m. Friday to get his business situated before turning himself in to serve his jail time.
The judge said “depending on who you are listening to,” the charge could have spanned a period from 2011 to 2016 and involved a girl who was 12 at the time.
“I am not going to mince words,” Judge Gonzales told Barton. “I am going to tell you what I think because that’s my job, and sometimes you just have to say it. I am a father. I have a 13-year-old daughter at home. As a father I take particular offense to this kind of behavior.”
The victim in this case trusted and cared for Barton, Judge Gonzales told him, and he took advantage of that trust. “If nobody else wants to say it, I am going to” — Judge Gonzales said that Barton had the 12-year-old touch his penis “for your enjoyment, for your benefit, for your pleasure, and my guess is it wasn’t on just one occasion.”
Taking advantage of a child in the way that he did was “sickening, it’s absolutely disgusting,” Judge Gonzales told Barton, “that you could do this to this child.”
Addressing attorneys’ statements that Barton had an alcohol problem he was now addressing, the judge said he did not care if Barton was drunk, he still knew what he was doing was wrong. The judge said he received comments from people who said Barton was a compassionate, caring decent human being, but perhaps due to his alcohol use his behavior in this case was like a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde situation.
The judge said Barton runs a business, which appears to be successful and has no criminal history other than some incidents involving alcohol.
Judge Gonzales said the kind of crime to which Barton pleaded guilty happens all over and sometimes gets reported and sometimes does not.
In this case, the child was strong enough to reach out and let her parents know what was going on, Gonzales said. “Thank goodness for that. Your alcohol/drinking would have continued and something more would have come from this.”
Judge Gonzales told Barton that if it were not for his efforts in the last year, “you would be going to prison.”
However, the judge took into consideration Barton’s compliance in the pre-trial program, his voluntary enrollment in treatment programs, his low score on the Level of Service Inventory (LSI) and his cooperation with law enforcement. The judge said he understood that the public shame and embarrassment was also painful especially for someone in Barton’s position in the community.
The judge sentenced Barton to five years probation, which was the recommendation of the district attorney’s office, plus 200 hours community service, 90 days in jail (less four days already served) and payment for counseling for the victim. The judge added that if Barton completed all his requirements before that time, the probation could be terminated early. However, if Barton does not comply, he would be facing prison, the judge added.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, but I am just making sure you understand that,” the judge told Barton.
Judge Gonzales agreed with the multiple conditions recommended by both defense and prosecution attorneys including no contact with children under age 18 until cleared with probation, compliance with sexual offender treatment, not going to places frequented by underage children and other conditions.
Deputy District Attorney Brendan Johns said law enforcement received the initial information regarding inappropriate touching allegations on November 2, 2016, and investigated the situation. Johns said this was particularly troubling because the victim was a child. Johns said Barton was cooperative with law enforcement, and he recommended a five-year probationary sentence.
Barton’s attorney David Lipka added that Barton took this very seriously and had already begun treatment for the issues related to this case including alcoholism and his own victimization. He has also reached out for help in his church, Lipka said.
Lipka added that Barton has a business in the community, and the fact his financial backers are still supporting his business speaks highly of him.
Barton said he would make no excuses for the poor choices he had made, and he had voluntarily begun treatment.
“You are getting a second chance to make right what you did wrong,” Judge Gonzales told Barton. The judge said although Barton had caused harm to the victim, “there’s nothing you haven’t done you can’t make better.”