Grand jury indicts man accused in hate crime incident
CLINTON - A grand jury in East Feliciana indicted a 54-year-old man for a felony cruelty charge Tuesday.
The grand jury's decision comes about two weeks after Ronnie Barnes was arrested. Investigators said Barnes was caught on video pulling down the pants of a 12-year old child then calling him a racial slur at a convenience store.
"I do not believe the charge they have charged him with is the appropriate charge," Barnes' attorney, Tommy D'Amico said.
Barnes was issued a misdemeanor summons for simple battery at first then arrested and booked into jail on a misdemeanor hate crime.
The mother of the boy, Jarvis Cody Smith, said her son was inside the store paying for gas when the unprovoked attack occurred. She told investigators, Barnes approached him and asked if he was a girl. The mother said Barnes then yanked the boy's pants down and called him a racial slur, then made other racial remarks. She said her son is still having residual impacts from the attack.
"He's so withdrawn," Jeania Jackson said. "He's depressed and says everytime he goes into a public place, he's looking over his shoulders so it has changed my child."
The felony cruelty to a juvenile charge handed up by the grand jury Tuesday is a new one.
Around the grand jury's decision, a judge also accepted Barnes' not guilty pleas during two arraignment hearings.
"A video can be misleading," D'Amico said. "We will wait until we get all the evidence."
As for the boy who was assaulted, he had this message for Barnes.
"Don't do it to nobody else," Jarvis Cody Smith said.
If convicted, Barnes faces up to ten years in prison and could be forced to pay hefty fines. He due back in court in October.
Watch for exclusive coverage of today's decision, including what happened when Barnes left the courthouse starting on WBRZ News 2 at 4 p.m.
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