By Jean Cole
Barry Gant, 49, of Athens, was found not guilty on both counts of sexual abuse of a child under age 12 following a trial this week in Limestone County Circuit Court.
The six man, six woman jury reached a verdict about 10:25 a.m. Friday morning after deliberating a total of six hours beginning Thursday afternoon.
Gant did not return a telephone call Friday for comment on his acquittal.
Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones said after the verdict, “While I am disappointed with their verdict, I would like to thank the jury for their hard work and attention in this case. I want to applaud the courage of these victims and the strength of their family for never wavering in their determination to seek justice. I try the difficult cases and I am not going to win every one. I will continue to fight for the victims of crime in Limestone County and I will not let this verdict diminish my determination.”
A lack of physical evidence, inconsistencies in when the eldest child told her father about the alleged abuse and the audiotaped interview of the victim on the day of the alleged abuse were factors in the jury’s decision to acquit, Jones said.
Gant was accused in 2009 of sexually abusing the 5 and 2-year-old daughters of a friend whom he had met through Alcoholics for Christ.
Some of the issues raised by the defense were the audio interview of the 5-year-old in which the investigator is the first to name the accused. On the tape, the child never named Gant, whom she called Barry. She referred to her alleged attacker only as “he.” This could have been because at the outset of the interview, former Limestone County Sheriff’s Investigator Randy Burroughs asked her to tell him what she had told him earlier about Barry. Or, according to the defense attorney, it could have been because the girl did not know her attacker — that her attacker was someone other than Gant.
On the stand, Burroughs had tried to explain that he had used the audiotape to support what the girl had already told him earlier that day. At the time, the Sheriff’s Department did not have one officer designated and trained to interview possible sexual assault victims. Burroughs was the investigator on call that day. Investigator Leslie Ramsey has since been assigned to conduct such interviews and she is trained in those interview techniques. The Sheriff’s Department also uses the Child Advocacy Center, which has employees trained in child sexual-abuse interviewing techniques perform a videotaped interview. In addition, the Sheriff’s Department also now conducts videotaped interviews.