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Government: Barnes’ Latest Motion Just More ‘Hyperbolic Claims’

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed a motion asking the V.I. District Court to strike Stephanie Barnes’ motion to correct her trial transcript or vacate her conviction, saying it reflects “a pattern of vitriolic rhetoric and hyperbolic claims unsupported by the facts of the case.”

Stephanie Barnes (Source file photo)

Barnes, 63, the Casino Control Commission contractor found guilty of conspiracy to commit theft from programs receiving federal funds, receipt of government property, and filing false tax returns at her jury trial in December 2021, filed the motion pro se — meaning she is representing herself — “due to the abandonment of her court appointed attorney,” according to her motion.

However, the government countered on Friday that under the U.S. Constitution, since Barnes has legal representation she cannot also proceed pro se. Barnes is currently represented by her sixth lawyer to date, Miguel Oppenheimer, who was appointed by the court after she fired her previous attorney via email last July. An intellectual property lawyer, he is unequipped to argue a complex white-collar criminal case and “has demonstrated a lack of vigor” in representing her, she said in her motion.

Dated April 24 but filed with the court on May 1, Barnes’ motion asks District Court Chief Judge Robert Molloy “for an immediate order” to be served on the U.S. Attorney’s Office “to immediately stop the obstruction of justice altering the defendant’s trial transcript to save their case at appellate review and in justification of the falsifications of the defendant’s presentencing report done for the purpose of enhancements.”

Barnes alleges that “the government is scrambling to modify the trial transcript” after being made aware of her intent to appeal her conviction to the Third Circuit Court.

Barnes has also asked Molloy to order the court reporters who compiled the transcript to provide her with “actual verbatim records” of her trial and wants a copy of the audio and visual recordings of the same.

She called the alleged changes to the transcripts “racist and abhorrent,” though did not offer examples of such in her four-page, single-spaced motion that was written using the rudimentary computer system available to detainees at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, where she has been held since shortly after her conviction on Dec. 23, 2021.

In the government’s two-page response on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Rikhye asked the court to strike Barnes’ motion, because she cannot proceed pro se and with an attorney at the same time, but also because her allegations are essentially rubbish and a ploy to obstruct justice, he said.

“The United States hereby advises the Court that we are not in possession of, nor have we sought any modifications to, the trial transcript in this matter. To date, Barnes is the only party in this matter to request and receive expedited copies of the trial transcript,” according to the government’s motion.

“The United States further observes that Barnes’ pro se motion reflects a pattern of vitriolic rhetoric and hyperbolic claims that are unsupported by the facts of this case. Hence, Barnes’ objectives must be construed as an attempt to obstruct the criminal proceedings against her and to stymie this Court in its duty to fairly administer justice,” the government’s motion states.

“Under such circumstances, and in light of the prevailing law, the United States respectfully requests that the Court strike Stephanie Barnes’ pro se motion to correct trial transcript modification or vacate conviction,” it said.

Sentencing for Barnes, so far rescheduled six times, is currently slated for 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 25 in V.I. District Court on St. Croix after Molloy granted another extension on April 14. He said then that a hearing will be held the same day on a motion Barnes filed in March 2022 seeking acquittal or a new trial, claiming she was an unwitting victim of former Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Violet Anne Golden’s profligate spending.

Golden hired Barnes in 2015 to work as a consultant, developing programs to help people with gambling addictions. According to court documents, they took close to $300,000 in funds approved for agency operations and spent it on lavish trips, clothing, entertainment, and other unapproved items.

The irregularities in spending and administrative functions were brought to light by an investigation of the V.I. Inspector General’s Office in 2018, which led to an FBI investigation. Barnes and Golden were subsequently arrested in July 2019.

Under a plea deal, Golden pleaded guilty to misappropriating $295,503 of government funds in January 2020. She was sentenced in August that year to 24 months and was released in September 2021. She testified at Barnes’ trial on behalf of the prosecution.

If given the maximum sentence, Barnes could face 10 years in prison.

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