Cult leader Victor Barnard's attorney is in Brazil is fighting extradition. Even though a warrant has been signed by a Brazilian court, delays are very common there. Barnard's new legal team in Minnesota is used to high profile cases, and say they will focus like a laser beam on the only question that matters: Did Barnard sexually abuse two young girls?
The investigation: Maidens of River Road
The charges: Cult leader charged with molesting 'Maidens'
The arrest: Cult leader captured in Brazil
Since his arrest in a Brazilian resort town two months ago, Victor Barnard has been cooling his heels in a crowded northern Brazilian jail that's anything but Club Med. Marsh Halberg and David Risk are Barnard's new attorneys in Minnesota. If and when he's back in the state, they'll defend him against sex charges going back more than a decade.
"I think it's a harsh situation to be in, and he's coping the best he can, to be in the situation," Halberg said.
Pine County prosecutors recently filed formal extradition orders, translating 51 counts of criminal sexual conduct into Portuguese. The case hinges on two victim-survivors, Jess Schweiss and Lindsey Tornambe, who told the Fox 9 Investigators that Barnard, the leader of their religious cult, began molesting them when they were just 12 and 13. Barnard even apparently had their parents' permission. One of the girls kept track of the encounters, with a small "x" in the corner of her calendar.
What's coming in court
At trial, it's likely the women will have to face their parents and relatives who are still with the group, who might even testify against them. In the extradition order, prosecutors wrote Barnard "made his followers believe he was Christ in the flesh. They were cut off from the world, no phones, internet, newspapers, or mail."
Prosecutors added that a group of first born daughters, the "Maidens," tended to his needs, "whether it be handing him towels after his shower, cooking his food, cleaning his home, or providing him with sex."
Barnard's attorneys say their goal is to strip the case of its most sensational elements, essentially making it Barnard's word against the two women who were once devoted followers.
"I want to see him get a fair trial based on what did or didn't happen, not what his beliefs are, that's really important to me," Risk said.