The Failure of the Criminal Justice System: The Case of James Barbour, NYC Broadway Actor and Child Molester

James Barbour.  Do not forget that name the next time you go and see a Broadway show. He had played the “Beast” in the famed “Beauty and the Beast”.  Apparently, he was a beast off the stage as well.

Last week, Barbour pled guilty to two counts of the reduced charge of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a misdemeanor, for fondling a 15 year old girl who visited him back stage in connection with a high-school trip before the final curtain call and later having oral sex with her about a month later in his apartment.  As his sentence, he received a paltry term of 60 days jail followed by three years probation.  This was reported in the New York Times here

What is not so clear in the NY Times article is that for the case to have arrived in Judge Scherer’s part, Part 81, a New York County Grand Jury would have had to indict this defendant on felony charges.  That means it’s more than simply the felony complaint.  At least 16 grand jurors had to have “reasonable cause” to believe the victim when she said that Barbour had done these particular things to her.  Thus, any plea bargain of a lesser included charge — particularly one of a misdemeanor — offered by the Manhattan Assistant District Attorney would also have to be approved by the judge. 

Of course, it was likely during a bench conference that the misdemeanor offer was conveyed because of a supposed weakness in the case and statutory time issues.  Nonetheless, the sentence underscores something larger with the criminal justice system as it relates to sex crimes, which is a lack of will to uniformly punish those who have committed crimes against the weakest of victims:  children.

For one, it is simply hard to believe that this was the first time Barbour did this “backstage.”  Sex crimes are not aberrant acts.  It involves a clear course of conduct, and Barbour’s acts and the circumstances surrounding it indicate that they were certainly no exception.  Indeed, this is the first time Barbour was caught.  But for the fact that he had good luck in the past doesn’t mean that should have been the guiding consideration in offering the misdemeanor. 

Next, what kind of message does a 60 day sentence on a misdemeanor send?  Don’t worry, have sex with an underage person and get a mere slap on a wrist.  You won’t have a felony record at least.  It’s ridiculous. 

That leads to the other issue of whether Barbour’s “celebrity” status gave him sway for the deal.  If anything, given his status, Barbour should have been set to a higher standard, not to a lower one.  The Manhattan Assistant D.A. had felonies he/she could have gone forward with at a trial.  The Manhattan Assistant D.A. could have easily won the misdemeanor counts in front of a jury, despite any perceived issues with the witness.  The Manhattan Assistant D.A. should have tried with a trial and not copped out with a half a loaf.  The whole thing sends the wrong message and even with D.A. Morgenthau’s advice to prosecutors, getting a plea in this case was not “the right thing” to do.  It would have been better to go forward with a trial on the felonies and lost than it was to take this plea.   

What also is troubling are statements by Jay Binder, Barbour’s casting director.  He said that he should be judged by his “talent” as an actor as opposed to his criminal record.  I would hope that a production company looks closely at his background as a child molester and not merely his supposed talents as an actor in deciding whether to cast him.  And certainly paying customers should, too. 

In the end, the case of James Barbour expresses one thing only:  don’t get caught.  It’s not that child molesting is wrong in and of itself, it’s simply if you get lucky make sure that the young child doesn’t rat on you.  That is the wrong message to send.

In the meantime, I will not attend any play with James Barbour.  I suggest you boycott any play with him in it, unless it shows on the playbill that he is a child molester and that he changes his self-promoting website to say that he is a child molester.

A Broadway actor admitted on Thursday that in 2001 he seduced a 15-year-old girl who visited him backstage, and agreed as part of a plea bargain to reveal that admission to anybody he works for in film, television or theater for up to the next three years.  The actor, James Barbour, was accused of having criminal sexual contact with a high school student who was an aspiring actress when she attended a performance of “Jane Eyre” in June 2001.

The student’s drama teacher arranged for her to visit the Brooks Atkinson Theater with her parents. Mr. Barbour told Justice Micki A. Scherer of State Supreme Court in Manhattan that the girl visited him in his dressing room before the final curtain call and that he fondled her, knowing that she was only 15 years old.  He also told the judge that he had oral sex with the girl in his apartment the next month. She did not come forward with her account for several years.

Under the negotiated deal, Mr. Barbour, 41, pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, both misdemeanors, in exchange for a promise that he would be sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years’ probation.  Mr. Barbour’s lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, said his client accepted the deal because if a jury had convicted him of the original felony sex charges against him he would have been forced to register as a sex offender, “which basically would have ended his career.”

His lawyer said that the prosecutor’s agreement to a misdemeanor plea showed the weaknesses of its case. But Mr. Barbour had to agree to a lengthy series of conditions of probation that are very similar to those that apply to convicted sex offenders.  While he is on probation, he must inform the manager, producer or assistant director of any theatrical, film or television project he works in that he has been convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, “having engaged in oral sexual conduct and sexual contact with a 15-year-old child.”

And he has to get permission from the court or his probation officer to participate in shows employing child actors or to give backstage tours to children.  He must also attend sex-offender treatment and cannot visit playgrounds, arcades, amusement parks, school grounds or Internet chat rooms frequented by children without permission from his probation officer.

In a signed statement to the police in April 2006, Mr. Barbour said that he was just acting as a mentor to the girl, that he had done no more than touch her knees and kiss her and that he thought that she was 16.  But in court on Thursday when asked by Justice Scherer, “Were you aware of her exact age?” Mr. Barbour replied, “Yes.”

“What was that age?” Justice Scherer pressed.  “Fifteen,” he replied.

At least one Broadway veteran said on Thursday that Mr. Barbour, who played the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” for about eight years, might find himself less marketable for family-friendly shows for awhile.  “I think if he did a show with adults, he might be entitled to a second chance,” said Emanuel Azenberg, a Broadway producer. “‘Sweeney Todd,’ O.K. But even then I certainly wouldn’t put it in the bio.”

Saying on Thursday that those conditions could turn out to be “a big price to pay,” Mr. Azenberg said producers might be concerned about the moral and legal liability involved in casting an actor convicted of endangering a child.  Producers could be wary of financial and artistic repercussions, he said, because casting directors would feel obliged to reveal Mr. Barbour’s conviction to the parents of any children who might audition for a show, “and then your casting choices would be compromised.”

But Jay Binder, a casting director who said he had begun Mr. Barbour’s career by casting him in “Beauty and the Beast,” said he would make decisions based on talent.  “James Barbour is a first-rate Broadway leading man,” Mr. Binder said. “If he were the actor that the entire creative staff agreed upon, there would be no professional reason not to hire James Barbour.”

Mr. Fischetti said he expected his client, who will be sentenced next month, to be out of jail in time to perform in “A Tale of Two Cities” if it comes to New York. Mr. Barbour played Sidney Carton during a pre-Broadway tryout in Florida last year. The producers of the show declined to comment on Thursday.  He said Mr. Barbour was recently married in a civil ceremony — his wife accompanied him to court on Thursday — and was planning a formal wedding in Hawaii. Mr. Fischetti said the woman Mr. Barbour was convicted of endangering is now an actress. (Source: NY Times)


12 thoughts on “The Failure of the Criminal Justice System: The Case of James Barbour, NYC Broadway Actor and Child Molester

  1. while sounding like a little school girl — and we all now know his preferences there — barbour responded to the charges without a trace of sincerity and remorse. truly one of his better acting jobs. shame there is no award for hoodwinking and mocking the legal process. perhaps he has set the precedent? …”and the winner of the shammy goes to”….
    i am not fooled by his nonchalance in the press, nor that of his beaten — and over-priced — defense team. birds of a feather, indeed. sociopaths do not like to lose under any circumstance and will gaslight the world into thinking they have triumphed. the fact is, he is an admitted child molester. no denying public record. while on the topic of denial…how about his “loving wife” standing by his side…how stupid does this pretentious prick think people are? will this woman awaken from her stupor someday? it’s bad theater in every sense of the phrase. it doesn’t require a background in forensics to know that if he victimized one kid, he has victimized numerous kids. yes, kids. there’s a pathology here. if you’ve been following along, you’d know the press has already reported on another girl who won’t come forward. kid was 13 at the time…

    unfortunately, this is the story of the *only* victim who had the courage to come to forward. and no one but a victim can appreciate the gravity of this action. only another victim can know the damage that will never go away..the closure that will never manifest. this demon took more than one childhood. and yes, 60 days doesn’t even come close to repaying this, but it’s a start. perhaps there will be more in his future? the bloated ego and sociopathic nature of this pathetic animal denies him the ability to self-reflect, and therefore, renders him incapable of remorse. he has committed these acts before, and will likely commit them again. the good news here is that he is now being watched.

    his empty bravado and dullness of helmet will surely cause him to slip… let’s hope the public recognizes him for what he truly is and refuses to support everything with which he is associated…forever. to the jay binders of the world (see the recent ny times article)…i say shame on you…you are just as morally bankrupt as he, if you would hire him for anything ever again. i can only hope the theater lovers at rikers clean him out as well as his super star defense team did. now let’s see…what skill can he parlay into prison currency during his stay…i know…let’s put on a show…oh yes, nothing like grand broadway show tunes to lift the spirits in the morning showers.

    kinda conjures up the image of zero and gene rehearsing ‘prisoners of love’, eh? on second thought, over the next few weeks maybe he should learn to rap… in a month or so, the world will have one less piece of trash walking about…if but for a short while…

  2. Dear Gerardo,

    Thank you for your comment. I understand your vitriol for James Barbour. I share it, too.

    We should shine a light on the criminal justice system as it relates to its treatment of sex crimes as well as the attitudes and biases in our society that cause and perpetuate them in the first place.

    Mr. Cheeseburger 9000

  3. The statements read in this post do not show the fact that hundreds of girls under 18 attest to having relations with older men, and like it that way, whether it is legal or not, unfortunately. They have absolutely no problem with this. This girl seems to fit the bill. From what it appears, she was trying to use her sexuality to get Mr Barbour to aid her in getting jobs, and help her get into the theatre.
    Note that(her name has come out already in certain websites) her career has taken off since such accussations came about. It seems almost as if she cut a deal with someone influential enough, who wanted to bring down Mr Barbour, in exchange for helping her rise in the business. And rise she has in LESS than two years, which seems almost unbelievable: There are a lot of talented actors in NYC and other parts, more talented than her, who spend years trying to “make it”. This case has a smell of criminality all over it. Also rmember she waited until 2 months prior to the end of stature of limitations to bring the accussations about, which is incidentally, around the time she dropped out of NYU, and went back to her hometown, not having quenched her ambitions of becoming an actress. In any other case, I would agree with you, perhaps. But in this case, consideration should be given to the “shady” factors involved first, before someone decides to “boycott” Mr Barbour’s work, which has alwasys been guilded with excellence.

  4. By the way, another note regarding Mr Binder. He actually said that he would cast according to talent, considering Mr Barbour will not have a “child molestor” record, and he has taken responsibilty(by going to jail)for his actions. There should be no reason why he should not be hired for future projects. And, as far as Mr Barbour having “done” anything like this before, take note of my previous comment about the state of things in real life. I think it is unfair to assume that he has a ‘track” behind him, when it has not been proven in any court.

    1. There is no legal reason preventing him from being hired for future projects. There are many scumbags, assholes, and sexual predators out there still working in the industry and others. And I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that he has a “track” behind him. Look at the data and you will see that this is most likely the first time he was caught.

  5. Dear Madeline Z,

    Thanks for your comments. You raise some very valid points.

    For one, it takes two to tango. And its hard sometimes for someone to think that because he had sex with a willing person under 18, it is illegal. Add to that: the person he had sex with illegally is “benefitting”.

    All of those things — even if completely true — do not erase the fact that those under 18 — according to NY State Law — do not have the capacity to consent. It doesn’t matter if the girl “seduced” Barbour or gained a million dollars for having sex with Barbour. That’s the law. And Barbour broke it intentionally.

    The other issues you talked about regarding the fallacies of the witness . . . it happens all the time in sex crime cases. This is not Law and Order where all the witnesses are so eager to testify and put people behind bars. This is the real world. And, in the context of sex crimes, they are often very difficult to prove . . . the victim essentially gets violated again when they have to testify. There are also many reasons why witnesses don’t come forward immediately, just like in domestic violence cases. It doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that the delay automatically meant that a witness is lying or fabricating. Being a victim of a sex crime is not like getting your wallet stolen.

    You are absolutely right that Barbour should be judged by what is proven in court. But the fact is that sex crimes are often not aberrant acts. It’s a course of conduct. Do I have any proof that Barbour committed sex crimes against others? No. But, then again, I’m not prosecuting him in a court of law. I’m looking at all the facts and circumstances of sex crimes and those who commit it. And the facts show that sex crimes against those who do not have the capacity to consent are often committed by those who engage in a course of conduct. Some reports even point to these defendants having a mental defect.

    Look at the circumstances surrounding the crime he was convicted of. He met a girl for the first time, fondled her, and then later went to his apartment and had oral sex. Chance encounter? Or a symptom of a pattern of behavior indicative of those who commit sex crimes?

    In the end, the only consideration that needs to be given in the Barbour case is that he committed a despicable and illegal act against a person who the law finds had no capability to consent to such behavior. In my book, I don’t care if he’s the best actor on the planet. He’s a child molester. You can provide all the excuses for Barbour that you want, but I’m not watching anything he will be in.

    Mr. Cheeseburger 9000

  6. Dear Mr. Cheeseburger 9000:
    According to the facts, Barbour first met the girl in his hometown, when he gave a lecture at the High School where he had graduated from. Apparently, this girl wanted to meet him, and was introduced to him by his ex drama teacher. The teacher then arranged through Barbour, for the girl and her parents(her boyfriend apparently went also)to go see the play Jane Eyre, where Barbour was one of the leads. In between, it is also logical to think they had e-mailed a few times or had contact by phone, so that when they met up backstage, was not the first time. The curious thing for me is that her parents and boyfriend were there that night also, but only she went backstage(?). Forgive me, but as a parent I would be a little skeptical about this, and even the boyfriend would have been a logical escort.
    The second incident in his apartment, came about after admitted e-mailing, and most likely many phone conversations, so a some kind of relationship had been stablished. Again, a 16 year old travelling by herself to NYC and to see a man twice her age, is not something “normal” for a parent to allow their daughter to do. Barbour mentored quite a few kids from his High School, and this was the only one who he had this relation with. But he never actually had intercourse with her, although he could have done this.
    Do not get me wrong: I DO NOT support sex with minors, or defend sex offenders. But not every circumstance in life is the same, and not everyone has sick or malicious intent when they do something, as I believe was Barbour’s case.
    As far as the girl is concerned, not only did she have poise enough to travel to NYC alone and go to a single man’s apartment(much older than her), but also to call his Los Angeles residence(NOTE: I am still asking myself “how” she had his phone number there) and “tape” the conversation so she could incriminate him. Also note that Mr Barbour was honest enough to admit to her that his behaviour had been unethical, which should have given her some kind of closure about the whole affair, unless she just wanted to take him down. She knew what kind of problems she would bring upon him, inspite of the facts already mentioned about her “intent”, the fact Barbour did not engage in intercourse with her, that he tried to redeem himself to her for HIS behaviour.
    You forgot to address the very possible fact that someone “bought” her to undertake this accussation, a criminal act in itself. She also must have had some kind of grudge against Barbour for ending the relationship abruptly, ending whatever outcome she had in mind.
    I also do not think being with a teenager should be viewed in the same status of “child molester” as say, a 10 year old. There is a difference physically, although I do realize there is a certain number each state uses to mark the age of consent(NYC happens to be 17, if I am not mistaken).
    I respect your opinion of not seeing anything Barbour is in. But I also think you should try to respect the fact that Mr Barbour might have had to admit to these charges in order to get on with his life, and not go through more years of mental stress, limitations of work, and paying lawyers through a what could be, very long trial(I am sure by now his finances must not be very substantial). Therefore, weighing all this, you should refrain from asking others to do the same, unless they already think like you.

  7. Dear Madeline Z,

    Thanks again for your insightful comments. I respect your opinion and appreciate your taking the time to discuss it with me. If it’s not clear already, let me reiterate that although I disagree with you on certain points, I have nothing against you as a person. It is good to have debates on the issues. I wish there was more of that.

    Yes, there are facts outside the record of this case. Circumstances that appear unfair to the defendant.

    I will only leave with these points. First, Mr. Barbour was “honest” enough to admit the charges. He did plead guilty and saved the state the expense of a trial. But it wasn’t an easy plea. He could have pled guilty a lot earlier. He waited until after the case was indicted.

    Also, there are other reasons for pleading guilty other than “honest” and “getting on with your life.” It had to do with the evidence that was against him. He made a calculated choice of a short jail time and no felony record vs. the risk of a felony record and upstate time.

    Barbour is not the viled child molester that goes around molesting 8 year olds. But what he did was against the law, and what he did amounted to molestation.

    The ultimate point I am trying to make here is the message the system needs to send much change in the context of sex crimes. I am asking the system and society to reassess the paradigm of what a child molester is. It’s not simply that a defendant got unlucky from some unscrupulous victim. The premise that cannot be overcome is that the victim — no matter how unscrupulous, no matter how hated, no matter that she is physically developed — does not have consent to agree to engage in oral sex with Barbour. The premise starts and ends there.

    I’ve weighed all the facts, including those that are not in the papers. He was given a sweet deal. He should have gotten something longer. And, although he pled guilty, he certainly has shown no remorse. His lawyer from day one has been on a smear campaign. Blame the victim. It’s a fair defense, although the law recognizes no such defense when it comes to sex (and in New York, that is defined as oral sex, too) with a minor. The lawyer knows that. A jury has to follow a court’s instructions. There’s a fine line between challenging a victim’s credibility to make a complaint vs. challenging a victim that she deserved it. The lawyer blurred those lines at the behest of Mr. Barbour.

    I can’t recommend that anyone watch this guy perform, despite his obvious talents. He put himself into this mess. He should and is paying for his mistakes. He has no one to blame for this but himself.

    I choose not to support his endeavors again. I ask anyone who follows him to weigh the facts of his criminal behavior and make their own decision.

    Mr. Cheeseburger 9000

  8. A delayed reply(I have not been back to this site until now) to your last comment, Mr. cheeseburger 9000, and with the same tone of respect for what we are discussing.
    Imagine you were in the defendant’s place, due to an ignorant , inmature mistake on your part, with no real “henious” intentions behind it(most males try to “impress” females with their accomplishments and “connections”–and yes, they also like to attract younger females to validate to themselves that they are still young–although in this case, he “was” still young–all usually a sign of inmaturity or insecurity). He nips the said encounters at the bud, when he realizes that, what he is partaking in, is wrong.
    Then, 5 years later, the alleged victim decides she wants atonement, for something that she partook in willingly, and actually “sought”, to use the accuser’s status and connections for her own ambitions of advancement in the acting industry.
    If he said anything against himself, he would have been done for life, on account of the “magic” age of 15/16 of the accuser(mind you, I still have my doubts as to whether he actually did “all” those things, or was forced to “admit” in order to get a plea bargain, and go on with his life and carrer). If he didn’t, he still would face a trial , which could take years to resolve, with possible attrocious endings, if a jury would have erroniously convicted him of something which he already had confronted and admitted to be a mistake, and unethical in his part.
    In my view, and I do have a bit of reference about being accused and harrassed wrongly, in a frame up type situation, this matter should have been resolved “out of court” first. Due to the situation, the accusser(surely she must have been encouraged to do this), knew that the defendant was in a “pickle” of a frame-up situation, which would turn out in her favor. Her reasons? I do not buy her statement that she was doing it so that “others” would be “spared”. She does not “fit” the bill of the typically portrayed victim afrraid to come out with an accussation;after all, even at that age, she was involved in theatre arts, and travelled to NYC to be part of the “Les Miserables” final production(besides travelling also there “alone” to see the accussed), and she continued studies in NYU, and involved in trying to make it, which takes poise and determination. Five years(and “just” before the stature of limitations was to take place), is quite a long time to wait to decide that “others” might be a risk(when I say “risk”, is a suppossed situation, since as I noted before, she willingly sought the meetings).
    I have read other comments about her “motives”, which I will refrain to comment here, due to lack of time, and because I believe what I have already commented is solid enough to state my point. However, what I have read does make for a quite interesting case, if ever investigated(criminal intent?).
    I noticed you chose certain of my points before to reafirm yours, but did not comment on some very important ones, choosing to note them as “…facts outside the record of this case.” I think of you as a fair debater. So, I hope you will, if not to comment here, consider them in your final considerations.. After all, we are talking of someone’s career “and” life here, which have been tarnished and thrown down the gutter, and culminating in a jail term and 3 yeaqrs probation.
    Signing off respectfully.

    1. This kind of argument really bothers me. I assume that you are someone who knows him professionally or personally. And while we are all complex human beings with foibles and personality quirks, what happened here was totally illegal and unethical. And Mr. Barbour’s comments about the victim afterward were completely awful, and the worst kind of sleazy blaming. It is hard to have a lot of pity for someone who could have had a great career, but flushed it down the proverbial toilet to have an affair with a seventh grader. Yuck…

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