Prosecutors Ask Judge to Admit Post-Arrest Interview in Barnes Trial

St. Croix District Courthouse
The trial of Stephanie Barnes is now into its second week at District Court on St. Croix. (Source file photo)

The course of a trial for a former consultant, working on a contract with the Casino Control Commission, may soon take a new direction. Federal prosecutors filed a motion on Sunday, asking the judge to admit portions of a taped interview conducted by the FBI into evidence.

In the motion filed in District Court, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert asked Judge Robert Molloy to allow 15 recorded segments from the interview to be admitted as evidence and published for the jury to see. Defendant Stephanie Barnes is accused of misappropriating government funds that were supposed to be used for casino commission operating costs.

Barnes was on contract with the commission to provide education services to problem gamblers. She was arrested and charged with wire fraud, money laundering, and related offenses in July 2019, along with former casino commission director Violet Anne Golden, who pleaded guilty to charges of similar charges plus tax violations in August 2020.

Prosecutors say that at the time of her arrest, Barnes made statements to FBI agents, claiming she did not know what Golden was doing with commission funds. Later on, attorneys for the government said Barnes claimed she was interviewed without having a lawyer present. That, she said, violated her Constitutional rights.

That claim by the defense was followed by a motion to suppress the statements. The court did not rule on that motion. Instead, court documents suggest that inaction came after prosecutors said they would not try to admit the statements unless the defense contradicted them at trial.

In the motion filed Sunday, Shappert and her legal team said the contradiction came during opening statements when Barnes’ lawyer said she spoke candidly with the FBI and fully cooperated with authorities at the time of her arrest. They said Barnes also signed a waiver after one agent told her to stop talking once she asked for access to a relative who was a lawyer.

To support their position, prosecutors cited ruling in similar cases issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. And, Shappert said if the court denies the motion, it might give jurors the notion that prosecutors are trying to hide something that might be favorable to Barnes.

The U.S. Attorney then asked for a ruling by midnight Tuesday and called on the defense to identify portions of the interview they would like to present in the trial, now into its second week.