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franklin county times

Alleged arsonist behind bars

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
June 21, 2002
Patrick L. Barnett, indicted in Lauderdale County on charges of calling in bomb threats to East Mississippi State Hospital, was taken into custody Thursday in Hattiesburg after his arrest in two recent arsons.
Barnett is the 46-year-old son of state Rep. Jim Barnett, D-Brookhaven, who has served in the Mississippi Legislature since 1992.
Three arrests in seven months
Patrick Barnett's most recent troubles with the law started last year. He was on parole after being convicted in January 1992 of aggravated assault and arson in South Dakota. Barnett had a job at East Mississippi State Hospital and was under the supervision of local probation officers.
In November 2001, he was charged with calling in bomb threats to EMSH on Oct. 21 and 22.
Municipal Judge Lester Williamson Jr. set bail at $10,000 $5,000 for each count. Barnett bonded out, and was indicted by a Lauderdale County grand jury in March 2002. At that time, Williamson increased the bond by another $10,000.
Jennifer Griffin, communication director of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said parole officials in South Dakota were notified of Barnett's new arrest. South Dakota officials sent a reprimand letter to Barnett.
On March 10, Barnett was charged with arson by the Hattiesburg Police Department. Griffin said Barnett is alleged to have set fire to an apartment he was sharing with a friend; the other man escaped injury by jumping out of a window.
Barnett's next arrest came May 31 in Meridian, when he was charged with third-degree arson. Griffin said he apparently got into a disagreement with a landlord in East Meridian over displaying the Confederate flag on the property. Barnett allegedly crashed a 1985 Chrysler Fifth Avenue into the side of the duplex, and then set fire to the car in an apparent attempt to burn the building.
Judge Williamson set his bond for this arrest at $20,000 and Barnett remained incarcerated in the Lauderdale County jail until June 12, when he bonded out again.
A case that slipped through the cracks
State MDOC officials became involved in the case again this week after The Meridian Star asked local police officers, city court officials and probation officers to explain the process that led to bail being granted after Barnett's May 31 arrest and what, if any, action was contemplated in response to apparent parole violations.
Mississippi has a law denying bond to people arrested while already on bond for a prior felony arrest but Judge Williamson said the law did not apply in Barnett's case.
In order to be denied bail under that law, Williamson said, the defendant's new arrest must be a felony punishable by at least five years in prison. Williamson said third-degree arson, the charge he was aware of when he last set bail for Barnett, carries a sentence of one to three years.
Probation officers in Meridian said Thursday that Barnett has been transported to the Lauderdale County Detention Facility and will be held there pending word from South Dakota prison officials.
Barnett's father said he will leave his son's fate in the hands of the justice system.

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