Charles Barnes was a prosecutor for a little more than 24 hours.
Real prosecutors say Barnes of Oxon Hill, Md., pretended to be an assistant U.S. attorney to convince an investigator and a would-be witness that his trial dates in two misdemeanor cases had been moved and that neither person was needed in court.
He was hoping to get his pending charges dismissed.
Whatever notion of brilliance Barnes had in devising the plan, the scheme didn’t work out. D.C. Superior Court Judge Ronna Beck sentenced Barnes today to four years in prison for obstruction of justice. Barnes pleaded guilty in May.
“The defendant’s conduct was nothing less than an attack on the basic integrity of our criminal justice system,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Miller said in court papers.
Barnes had two pending misdemeanor cases in Superior Court—credit card fraud and assaulting a police officer—when he called up an investigator with the Howard University Police Department in April 2009 who was a witness in the fraud case.
Barnes, according to prosecutors, told the investigator, Robert Thompson, that he was an assistant U.S. attorney (“Steve Jackson”) and that the trial date in the fraud case had been moved. Prosecutors say Barnes wanted the telephone numbers of witnesses in order to advise them of this news.
Thompson wasn’t fooled. Prosecutors say he recognized Barnes’s voice and taped the call with a handheld recorder. The next day, Barnes was given a fake number—it belonged to a prepaid telephone—for a purported civilian witness. Barnes got off the phone with the investigator and called the number, according to prosecutors.
A Metropolitan Police Department officer answered the phone, according to prosecutors, and pretended to be the witness Barnes was trying to reach. Barnes again said he was a federal prosecutor. He told the witness about the changes in the trial date and that the witness would not be needed in court.
A lawyer for Barnes, D.C. solo practitioner Michael Madden, declined to comment on the case.