The lawyer for Victor Barnard, accused of 59 felony sexual misconduct charges in Minnesota, said that the cult leader is protesting his innocence from a jail cell in Brazil.
According to the Star Tribune Barnard's attorney Lucas de Brito, said, “He said he committed no crime, and that his followers … will testify on his behalf.”
Barnard, 53, was one of the most wanted fugitives in America when he was arrested last month in Brazil. Barnard awaits extradition back to Pine County, charged with allegedly raping young girls whom he termed “maidens” at the River Road Fellowship, his religious sect located in an isolated area near Finlayson.
Authorities say Maria Cristina Cajazeiras Liberato, 34, a Brazilian national who met Barnard when she was a college student studying in Minnesota, had provided him with money and shelter over the past three years. She was arrested at the same time Barnard was taken into custody in a beach town located about 1,300 miles from Rio de Janeiro. She has since been released.
Liberato is also being represented by Lucas de Brito. He told the Tribuna do Norte newspaper that Liberato couldn’t understand why Barnard had been arrested and that he was no cult leader.
The Associated Press reported that Brazilian police inspector Paulo Henrique Oliveira told G1, the website of Brazil's biggest TV network, that Barnard entered the South American country legally in 2012. The Star Tribune story said Barnard was supported by Liberato in the months since then, moving between her family’s properties and living a reclusive life. "He’s been seen publicly only twice in the last six months — at a medical clinic and a gas station," the newspaper story said.
Attorney de Brito said he will agree to extradition if Pine County prosecutors pledge not to impose a sentence longer than 30 years in prison, which is the maximum Barnard would face in Brazil.
FOX 9 previously reported that Barnard could be back in Minnesota in a month if he does not fight the extradition.
At the time of Barnard's arrest, Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson told the Pine City Pioneer that he was in contact with federal law enforcement officials about the Barnard case. He said it was not clear if Barnard would be incarcerated in Pine County Jail once he was returned and was awaiting trial. He also said it was unclear where Barnard would stand trial.
“That is all in the works,” Nelson said. “Everyone has the right to due process, and that’s going to happen in this case