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Former Utah County school secretary acquitted of sex with student

Published April 12, 2013 8:16 pm

Court • Jury acquits woman of sex charge but finds her guilty of obstructing justice.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After five hours of deliberation, a jury found that while a former finance secretary at Mt. Nebo Junior High School was not guilty of unlawful sexual conduct with a former student, she was guilty of obstructing justice in the case.

Montreia Barney, 49, was charged with one count each of third-degree felony unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old and class A misdemeanor obstructing justice.

Following a three-day trial, an eight-person jury in American Fork's 4th District Court reached the verdict Friday evening. Barney was acquitted of having sex with the then-16-year-old student, but the jury found she obstructed justice by denying to police that she had ever interacted with students outside of school.

"Certainly the victim's family is shocked," said deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson, who prosecuted the case.

Johnson said that after talking with members of the jury after the verdict, it seemed that conflicting testimony from witnesses was what led to Barney's acquittal.

"[The jury] found reasonable doubt in this 'he said, she said' case," Johnson said.

During Barney's trial, the alleged victim, now 19, testified that he first met the Barney in 2009 when he was 16 years old. He would visit her through the year, he said, sometimes to talk to her about finance issues regarding textbooks, and other times to discuss personal matters.

"She was real easy to talk to," the teen said. "Fun to talk to."

The Payson teen said Barney asked for his phone number one day, which he gave her. They began a texting relationship, which by the summer of 2010 had turned into flirty texts and phone calls that included phone sex, he testified.

During that summer, the two decided to meet at an LDS church parking lot near his family's property, the teen testified. The teen said he was cutting hay in his family's field when he took a break around noon, and drove his four-wheeler to the church parking lot, where he met Barney.

While testifying Wednesday, the boy bashfully described several sex acts the two allegedly performed on one another inside her vehicle, but oftentimes said he didn't remember many of the specifics of the encounter, including conversations they had.

Their 15-minute sexual rendezvous was cut short when the boy's brother approached the car, asking what was going on, according to court documents. Barney allegedly told the brother that she had been stood up on a tennis game by a friend, so she was just "hanging out" with the 16-year-old.

In March 2012, police questioned Barney about the incident, court documents state, and she was arrested in May 2012. Johnson said police were informed about the alleged incident after the teen told an adult in early 2012 about the encounter at the church.

Barney told police there were no inappropriate phone calls with students, and denied she had any meetings with students outside of the school other than running into them at local stores.

But after police confronted her with witness statements about her car being in the church parking lot, she allegedly told them she got lost while going to play tennis, made a U-turn in the parking lot and had a chance encounter with the 16-year-old that lasted two to three minutes.

Barney's attorney, Kenneth Parkinson, said during opening statements Wednesday that Barney denied the sexual encounter. He said that while she did text the teen, and allowed him to say inappropriate things to her, they did not have a sexual relationship.

"It's a horrible thing to accuse a woman of a crime she didn't commit," Parkinson said to the jury. "In most situations, you can forgive a young man who embellishes a romantic relationship or friendship and turns it into something it isn't. But today, Mrs. Barney's liberty is at stake."

jmiller@sltrib.com