(KMSP) - Minnesota cult leader Victor Barnard's appeal of his criminal conviction seeks to throw out his upward departure sentence of 30 years in prison, citing a lack of proper documentation. An appellant's statement filed last week argues "the district court indicated that it was not ordering a departure, made no findings to support a departure, and did not file a departure memorandum with the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission."
The appeal asks the court to reverse the sentence and impose a sentence the follows the state guidelines of 144 months for each count, served consecutively for a total sentence length of 288 months -- 24 years instead of the 30 Barnard is serving.
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.
Barnard pleaded guilty last year to two counts of sexual misconduct. As part of a plea agreement, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The notice of appeal was filed in January by Amy Lawler, an Assistant State Public Defender. Barnard’s attorneys for his criminal case were unaware an appeals was in the works. The move also caught Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson by surprise. When the appeal was filed, Frederickson told Fox 9 he is unaware of the grounds for the appeal since Barnard pled guilty and agreed to the sentence.
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.”