A Jackson County jury on Wednesday night found a former parochial school band instructor not guilty of inappropriately touching a student.
Tod A. Barnard, 55, had been charged with two counts of second-degree child molestation and two counts of third-degree assault. His attorney, Melanie Morgan, said Barnard was found not guilty on all counts.
On Tuesday a 13-year-old girl had testified that Barnard had inappropriately touched her six to eight times in scenarios in which he — either in the St. Thomas More School band room or the hallway just outside — appeared to accidentally stumble and fall into the student, touching her breast.
According to allegations in court documents, the incidents began in December 2013.
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Barnard denied the accusations several times Wednesday at the downtown Jackson County Courthouse.
Barnard said that, during a 2014 interview with a Kansas city police detective, he recalled one instance that December in which he had accidentally fallen into the student.
“Class had just finished,” Barnard said Wednesday. “It was a mad scramble. I wanted to put all the percussion gear away. Things were moving very quickly.”
The student, he said, was right in front of him.
“I remember stumbling. I remember that I bumped into her. I have a picture of it in my head happening.”
The student didn’t react in any significant way, he said, and he thought nothing of it.
“It was just another day of class,” he said.
Morgan, the defense attorney, told jurors that she was troubled how, as the girl continued to tell her story to a counselor and investigator, it appeared to evolve, with locations sometimes changing and details being added.
“She knew she had to say something more,” Morgan said.
“I think this is a young girl who changed her story quite a bit about what transpired. I think the jury recognized that,” Morgan said after the verdict. “My client has had a wrongful accusation hanging over his head for two years.
“He’s not guilty.”
In his closing argument, assistant prosecutor Jamie Hunt said the girl’s details were what made her story convincing. Her allegations, Hunt said, were specific.
“She remembers the details,” Hunt said.
“That’s nuance. She is remembering something that she experienced.”
On Wednesday, defense attorney Morgan gave Barnard a pair of drumsticks. After she picked up her own pair, the two simulated a drumming instruction session on a practice pad placed on the witness stand. Barnard said that his posture — standing to face Morgan — was his usual way of instructing students in percussion because it gave him the best perspective on the student’s technique.
There were occasions, he said, that he would touch students while delivering instruction, but he always would ask for permission, he said. Barnard said that he would also say, “If you have a problem with that, let me know.”