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Despite aggravated statutory rape plea, another man avoids sex offender registry

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - News4 Investigates has uncovered another case of a middle-aged man making a plea deal to a sex crime with a minor and does not appear on the sex offender registry.

News4 Investigates first uncovered these types of deals in 2018 when a then 46-year-old man had pleaded guilty to statutory rape of a 15-year-old but made a plea deal to avoid the registry.

News4 Investigates found other cases of men, decades older than their victims, making the same deals.

The latest case uncovered is Dr. Matthew Barnes, who is appealing to have his chiropractic license reinstated now that his criminal charge has been expunged.

According to minutes from the Tennessee Board of Chiropractic Examiners in October 2019 and April 2020 and video of one of the hearings, Barnes pleaded guilty in 2015 to aggravated statutory rape of a 14-year-old.

Matthew Barnes - 2020
 

Matthew Barnes (Photo: Barnes Family Chiropractic Center website)

 

Calls to Barnes’s practice in Adamsville, TN, and to his attorney were not returned.

According to the minutes of the meeting, the board has requested further documentation from a counselor before deciding on his license.

The notes read that during the April 2020 meeting, a representative of the Tennessee Medical Foundation “reviewed the evaluation submitted by Pine Grove which indicated numerous concerns with Barnes’ workplace boundaries, both sexual and nonsexual.”

Dr. Michael Baron, Tennessee Medical Foundation Medical Director, read to the board members the results of the Pine Grove assessment.

“It is the opinion of the Pine Grove Evaluation Team, Dr. Barnes is currently not fit to practice chiropractic medicine with reasonable skill and safety,” Baron said according to the minutes.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said she expected Barnes’ case to be brought up again the board’s October meeting.

Verna Wyatt, co-founder of Tennessee Voices for Victims, said these plea deals are much different than those made for young men and women who have sexual relations with teenagers. Barnes was 44 years old at the time of the crime.

“How is it protecting the public to wipe that off of his record?” Wyatt asked.

Mike Dunavant, the former district attorney general for the 25th Judicial District, oversaw the prosecution in the case. He is now the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee and referred questions back to his former office.

Mark Davidson, the current District Attorney General for the 25th Judicial District, said his office handled the plea deal but it was before his time. Davidson said according to his reading of the file, the victim’s family did not object to the terms of the plea deal.

 
 
 
 
 

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Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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