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Poynette man accused of sexually assaulting 14-year-old girl at party
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Poynette man accused of sexually assaulting 14-year-old girl at party

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A 19-year-old Poynette man is accused of sexually assaulting a girl under the age of 16 at a party.

Christian James Barnharst faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the felony charge.

Barnharst allegedly assaulted the girl on June 17, 2018, when he was 17 years old and the girl was 14. She is now 16.

According to the criminal complaint, a Columbia County Sheriff’s detective received a call in July from a health care provider in Madison regarding an assault that had occurred in the town of Dekorra. The detective then reached out to the victim’s parent by phone.

The victim had told her parent in July that Barnharst picked her up that morning for a party where she consumed alcohol. At the party in Barnharst’s home, Barnharst allegedly had taken off her pants and had sex with the girl. The victim said she had never consumed alcohol before the party, where she drank a couple of beers and about a dozen shots of liquor. She said she was stumbling and others at the party had wanted her to go to bed.

According to the complaint, Barnharst took the victim to a room and got on top of her and she kissed him back. The victim said she was aware of some of what was happening but “too out of it to do anything” and started to fade out.

The victim reportedly did not know Barnharst prior to the incident and woke up in his room alone. She said everybody at the party knew what happened and they “thought it was consensual.” She said she didn’t want anything to happen to Barnharst because she thought it was a “gray area” and that it was “pretty consensual.” She said she had flirted with Barnharst and didn’t say “no.”

The victim said there were no adults at his home and that Barnharst broke his nose at the pool, went to the emergency room and received pain medication, according to the complaint. She said he took extra pain medication and drank alcohol and the sex had occurred after this happened.

Barnharst reportedly told law enforcement that after he broke his nose at the pool and went to the hospital, the rest of the night was kind of a blur. He said that when he went to bed, “a girl” came with him and at first they didn’t do anything she didn’t want to do. He later said they kissed and fondled each other and that he thought she was 15 or 16. According to the complaint, when he was asked if he knew the victim was 14, Barnharst said, “That would be a no.”

A witness said she received a text from the victim after the party saying she had sex with a boy that night and hadn’t wanted it, the complaint states.

Barnharst will make his initial appearance March 11 in Columbia County Circuit Court.

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.

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