"Dateline" predator gets 17 months

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After Iraq-war vet Mike Barnett was arrested for robbing pedophiles ["To Rob A Predator," September 20, 2006], the public debated whether victimizing perverts merited a veteran's arrest. Half said yes, the other half said no. After all, Barnett's scheme was patterned after the popular Dateline segment "To Catch A Predator," where reporters pose online as a 15-year-old girl and then lure pedophiles to a house, where they're arrested. The only twist to Barnett's ruse was that he robbed about a dozen sexual predators before setting them free. He was charged on eight counts of extortion and robbery. On September 21, Carroll County Prosecutor Don Burns decided to go easy on Barnett. He offered him 17 months in prison if he'd plead guilty to just one count of attempted extortion. Barnett accepted the deal. His father, Tom, says 14 of those 17 months will be suspended and after 30 days, Barnett may receive a judicial release. Barnett's wife, Maria, who was also arrested for aiding in her husband's scam, is still under house arrest and awaiting trial. She is also hoping for a sweet deal. Despite her new criminal record, Maria's future has been looking up lately. Her attorney, Brendan Delay, says Maria, a 21-year-old Italian immigrant, was recently approved for her green card. She was also accepted into Muskingum College, where she hopes to study biology. Alas, "She won't be able to attend," Delay says. "It's hard to be a co-ed and be in jail — not even Oberlin College offers that program." -- Denise Grollmus
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