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UW-RF teacher charged in sex assault

Thomas William Barnett

A UW-River Falls professor has been charged in the sex assault of a 13-year-old girl in St. Croix County.

Thomas William Barnett, 42, Baldwin, made an initial appearance Friday on felony charges of sex assault of a child under 16 years old and false imprisonment. He posted a $2,500 signature bond.

The criminal complaint alleged on Aug 16 Barnett approached the teen-aged girl and her boyfriend in the Cinema 12 in the theater in Hudson and told her he was theater security and wanted to talk to her. Her 14-year-old boyfriend then left auditorium No. 5.

Barnett claimed he had video of the girl and her boyfriend being sexual during the movie and threatened to make it public if she didn't let him touch her. He then fondled the girl and prevented her from leaving the auditorium, the complaint said.

Barnett, an assistant music professor, has reportedly been placed on paid administrative leave at UW-RF.

Judge Eric J. Lundell set a preliminary hearing for Sept. 21 at 9 a.m.

Barnett faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine on the sex assault charge and six years in prison and $10,000 on the false imprisonment count.

Barnett is in his 10th year of teaching at UW-RF and his emphasis is in trumpet performance and instruction, River Falls Brass, Music Theory and directing the concert/pep band. Before coming to River Falls he taught at the University of Missouri, Truett-McConnell College in Georgia and Georgia College and State University. He is also one of the founding members of the River Falls Brass, a faculty brass quintet at UW-RF.

Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor at UW-River Falls, said the university learned of the investigation into the allegations earlier last week.

"At that time Dr. Barnett was placed on administrative leave and instructed to have no contact with UW System students," Fry said. "As we learn more, we will address the matter following our policies and procedures, specifically Chapters UWS 4 and 7."

Barnett is married and has three children.