The sentencing of Stephanie Barnes — the former Casino Control Commission contractor convicted in December 2021 of conspiracy to commit theft from programs receiving federal funds, receipt of government property, and filing false tax returns — has been delayed yet again.
Barnes was scheduled to be sentenced on April 27 in V.I. District Court on St. Croix. On Friday, Chief Judge Robert Molloy granted her motion for an extension of time to submit objections to the presentence report and moved her sentencing hearing to Aug. 25.
“After careful consideration and review, the Court finds good cause to extend the filing deadlines and the sentencing date in matter,” Molloy wrote in his order. “The Court concludes there is good cause at this current juncture in light of the fact that this was a complex case wherein the trial lasted fourteen days, Defendant’s current counsel was not present during the trial and has yet to receive the trial transcripts requested.”
According to the sixth attorney to represent Barnes — Miguel Oppenheimer of Puerto Rico, where Barnes has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo since Dec. 27, 2021 — he is still missing three days of trial transcripts. “[I]in order to effectively present any objection to the presentence report and sentencing memorandum undersigned counsel needs access to all trial transcripts and enough time to review them,” he wrote in the motion for an extension of time.
Barnes’ trial attorney, Martial Webster of St. Croix, was granted his motion to withdraw from the case last July after Barnes fired him via an email, causing yet another delay in a case beset by many, with sentencing so far rescheduled six times.
According to Molloy’s order on Friday, the deadline for parties to submit objections to the Presentence Report is extended until July 21, the U.S. Probation Office must disclose the Final Presentence Report to all parties and the court no later than Aug. 4, and both sides must each file a sentencing memorandum of no more than 20 pages by Aug. 18.
On March 31, 2022, Barnes filed a motion seeking acquittal or a new trial, saying she was an unwitting victim of former Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Violet Anne Golden’s profligate spending. At the time she was due to be sentenced May 19.
On Friday, Molloy said a hearing on that motion also will be held on Aug. 25, “and if necessary, the sentencing hearing shall commence promptly at 9:30 a.m.” in St. Croix Courtroom No. 2.
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 trips, clothing, entertainment, and other unapproved items.
The irregularities in spending and administrative functions were brought to light by an investigation of the Office of the V.I. Inspector General in 2018, which led to an FBI investigation. Barnes and Golden were subsequently arrested in July 2019.
Golden pleaded guilty to misappropriating $295,503 of government funds in January 2020. She was sentenced in August that year and was released in September 2021 after serving her sentence. The former commission chairwoman appeared at Barnes’ trial to testify on behalf of the prosecution.
In June 2022, Barnes filed a motion asking that Molloy, who presided over her trial, step down and that she be granted a new trial. In an 18-page filing, she said that the judge was incapable of being impartial due to his family’s alleged ties to the Golden family and because he allowed witnesses at her trial to disparage her character, among other claims.
That motion was denied, and her sentencing was rescheduled to Aug. 8, 2022.
If given the maximum penalty on the conspiracy charge, Barnes could face 10 years in prison.