Cult leader Victor Barnard to be extradited

Brazil’s highest court, the Supremo Tribunal Federal, has approved the extradition of alleged cult leader victor Barnard to Minnesota, where he faces 52 counts of sexually abusing minors in his religious sect. Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson confirms for Fox 9 that he has been notified that extradition will now proceed, but he was unaware of the timeline or other details.

Marsh Halberg, Barnard’s defense attorney, told Fox 9 it was Barnard who requested the expedited decision, which Halberg says was made by a smaller panel of the Brazilian Supreme Court. Halberg said he believes the timeline for Barnard to arrive back in Minnesota would be in the next six months. 

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Brazilian media are reporting that one of the conditions for extradition is that Barnard does not face more than 30 years in prison, and that his time already spent in Brazil be deducted from his sentence. The ruling from Brazil's high court, which includes these conditions, cannot be appealed.

Halberg says he believes Brazil’s condition, that Barnard not face more than 30 years if convicted, could be a stumbling block. Barnard is 54 years old.

“I don’t know if, as a matter of policy, the U.S. government would agree to conditionally extradite someone,” Halberg said. “In a practical sense, it would be a life sentence anyway."

Barnard’s religious group, the River Road Fellowship, had remained largely unknown until a major investigation by the Fox 9 Investigators in February 2014 that revealed two women who say they were sexually abused by Barnard when they were just 12 and 13 years old. That investigation led to criminal charges and a global manhunt for Barnard, who was eventually captured in Brazil

In November 2015, Brazil media reported that Barnard tried to hang himself in a suicide attempt while in a federal prison in Brazil. But other reporting indicated he may have been assaulted by fellow prisoners.