The attorney for Victor Barnard, the religious cult figure serving a long sentence for sexually molesting girls who were among his followers, said Sunday that state prison officials have refused to reveal details about his client reportedly being assaulted in prison.
David Risk said he was told by a member of the news media that Barnard, 55, was assaulted recently in prison in Rush City. Risk said he reached the state Department of Corrections' emergency contact for Barnard and other corrections officials and learned little.
"Officially, they tell me there is an investigation pending," Risk said. "They said they can't tell me anything about it in regards to Victor and the incident."
Risk said prison officials wouldn't even say whether the investigation is criminal in nature. The attorney said he's had no contact with Barnard since the incident occurred.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections confirmed Sunday that an assault occurred and is being investigated as a crime, but she declined to say it involved Barnard.
The news about Barnard being assaulted was reported Friday by KMSP-TV, Channel 9. It said the assault last Sunday on Barnard was violent enough to put him in a hospital intensive care unit but was not considered life-threatening.
Barnard, who had pleaded guilty to two counts of felony sexual assault involving young girls while he led the cloistered River Road Fellowship community in east-central Minnesota, was sentenced in late October to 30 years in prison.
While the allegations involving Barnard surfaced years ago, charges weren't filed until the spring of 2014. Authorities caught up with Barnard nearly a year later, when he was found in Brazil. He was extradited to the United States in June 2016.
Barnard left Pine County in the late 2000s amid rumors of sexual impropriety and financial bankruptcy.
His group splintered and he and dozens of others moved to Washington state, where they set up businesses. After charges were filed he was tracked to a beach resort town in Brazil.