A Louisiana judge ordered a woman to pay her rapist child support after the rapist was awarded full custody of their child. 32-year-old Crystal Abelseth was just 16 when she says John Barnes raped her – and now she’s being victimized again as a judge’s order takes her teenage daughter away and forces Abelseth to pay her abuser support money.
Barnes was 30 years old at the time of the sexual encounter and asserts that the sex was consensual, but Louisiana law says otherwise. Whether consensual or not – Ableseth says not – a minor can’t consent in the State of Louisiana, making Barnes a rapist. The rape occurred in 2005, and in July 2015, Ableseth filed a formal complaint to press charges. When asked by a WBRZ reporter what took so long, Ableseth responded:
“Like I said, I was young and I didn’t know the law at the time. I didn’t think I had any time, more time to do it. I thought if I didn’t do it right after it happened, like the next day, there was nothing I could do about it. And like I said, I went to that trauma counselor and he informed me ‘no, you have 30 years after you turn 18.'”
Abelseth’s case went unassigned and un-investigated for seven years until eventually, Barnes’ pursuit of custody reared its head, based on a claim that Abelseth gave their daughter a cellphone. Barnes first tried to gain custody in 2011 – after a DNA test proved that Abelseth’s daughter was his. A previous judge’s order gave the two shared custody, evenly split 50/50. But now, Abelseth has only supervised visits with her daughter – a daughter who’s the same age now as Abelseth was when she says Barnes raped her.
When the investigative team at WBRZ, the media outlet that broke the case, tried to get access to Abelseth’s court records – they were sealed. They were finally ordered unsealed last week by Judge Jeffrey C. Cashe – the same judge who awarded Barnes full custody of his victim’s child. The Tangipahoa Sheriff’s office has admitted it was a mistake not to investigate Abelseth’s claim of simple rape, releasing a statement, per The Independent, that said:
“In tracing this case back to the time the initial complaint was filed on July 1, 2015, it was discovered that the report never made it through the proper channels within the department to be assigned for investigation. Therefore, our department absolutely dropped the ball, and we simply must own our mistake.”
A “mistake” that the Tangipahoa Sheriff’s office says has “never been a problem before.” But it did happen in this one, and some might say that’s one too many. Moreover, claims by the Sheriff’s office that Ableseth “did not follow up on this matter until April of 2022” are no excuse.
According to Abelseth, Barnes not only threatened that he could take her child away any time he wanted– before he actually did – but claimed to have “connections” in the justice system and warned Abelseth to “be careful” because of those people that he knew. Barnes’ branding company, Gumbeaux Digital, had previously listed the Ponchatoula Police Department as a client. Not only has that reference been removed from the site, but Gumbeaux Digital’s Yelp and LinkedIn pages have been taken down.
In Louisiana, sex with anyone between the ages of 13-16 by someone over 17 years old is considered “carnal knowledge of a juvenile” – statutory rape – and can be either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the age difference between the two. Barnes was 30 at the time of the alleged rape, meeting the felony threshold per Louisiana law. Under Ls.R.S.14:80 statute, felony rape is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $5000 fine.
It’s a charge that would prohibit Barnes from having visitation rights or any sort of contact with the child as a convicted rapist if convicted. According to Women’s Law, Art.137 of Louisiana civil statutes explicitly states:
“A. In a proceeding in which visitation of a child is being sought by a parent, if the child was conceived through the commission of a felony rape, the parent who committed the felony rape shall be denied visitation rights and contact with the child.”
The law is very clear – and it’s on Abelseth’s side. Even if she had consented to sex with Barnes, it is still felony rape in the eyes of the state. Ableseth has a court hearing in July to terminate Barnes’ rights. The complaint against the now 46-year-old Barnes has been turned over to the DA’s office, per The Hammond Star. Let’s hope Abelseth can get the justice she’s been waiting for – and been denied — for far too long.
Original reporting by Chris Nakamoto at WBRZ.
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