Chicago cop cleared of molesting 9-year-old girl because judge wasn't sure fondling was sexual
Dennis Barnes

An Illinois cleared a retired police officer of sexual assault against another officer's daughter, convicting him instead on a lesser charge and sentencing him to 60 days in jail.

Dennis Barnes was accused of kissing and fondling the child after her mother -- a fellow Chicago police officer -- invited him to their home for the first time to a family barbecue, reported the Chicago Tribune.

But the Cook County judge who presided over a bench trial in January convicted the 63-year-old Barnes of misdemeanor battery, and acquitted him of the more serious charges of attempted predatory criminal sexual assault of a victim under 13 and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Judge Charles Burns explained that he believed prosecutors failed to prove that Barnes had fondled the girl for his own sexual arousal -- although he admits the former officer's actions were inexcusable.

"Something was going on, and that's something that I find disturbing," Burns said.

The judge sentenced Barnes to two months in jail and two years on sex offender probation, during which he must undergo sex offender counseling.

The girl's mother was furious, saying she believed prosecutors proved all the elements required to obtain a conviction on the more serious charges.

"I couldn't believe it, I couldn't believe it because of all the evidence," she said. "The judge even admitted that it disgusted him, so why would you say it's only a misdemeanor battery?"

The mother, whose name was not released to protect her daughter, told the court she felt responsible for allowing a "child molester" into her home, but she said Barnes had been a trusted co-worker and supervisor.

Barnes, who was ordered to report to jail on April 18, was accused of getting under a blanket with the girl as he watched a movie with her and her brother during a party.

Prosecutors said he massaged her feet, placed his hand on her thigh and stomach, and then grabbed the girl's face and asked for a "smooch" after the brother reported the behavior to their mother.

The child's mother said her daughter became ashamed of her body and developed chronic nightmares, anxiety attacks and bedwetting problems.

She has undergone months of counseling and frequent visits to her mother's workplace to alleviate her fear of police officers.

Barnes, a grandfather, retired from the police department as he awaited trial.