Cult leader Victor Barnard wins appeal, sentence will be reduced

- Minnesota cult leader Victor Barnard has won an appeal of his criminal conviction, throwing out the upward departure of his 30-year prison. Barnard's sentence will be reduced to 24 years. 

The court ruled "the case law on this issue is clear: when a district court fails to provide reasons for a sentencing departure on the record at the time of sentencing, no departure will be allowed. Although we have no doubt that permissible departure grounds exist in this case, because the district court did not provide any departure grounds on the record at the time of sentencing, case law compels us to remand for imposition of the presumptive sentence. We are obligated to follow the law."

Sources tell Fox 9 Barnard has been moved to a prison outside of Minnesota, for his safety. In January an inmate of the Rush City, Minnesota, prison said he “was doing God’s work” when he allegedly assaulted Barnard in a cell.

On Oct. 11, 2016, Barnard unexpectedly pleaded guilty to sexually molesting two of his teenage followers. As part of a plea bargain, Barnard had agreed to the 30 year prison sentence. 

It was a Fox 9 Investigation three years ago that revealed Barnard sexually abused two of his followers who were members of the “Maidens,” a group of 10 first born daughters in the group who were to serve Victor Barnard. The story led to a re-opening of the investigation against Barnard, a 59-count indictment against him, an international manhunt, and his eventual extradition back to Minnesota.

In January, Barnard and 15 followers were also served with a lawsuit from one of his victims, Lindsay Tornambe. The lawsuit claims the leadership of the River Road Fellowship failed to protect her from “the perversions of Victor Barnard.”

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