Trial of Refugee Accused of Molesting Child Underway in Bozeman

(Johnny Barriero-Guerror listens during his trial with the assistance of a translator. Photo courtesy KBZK)

As the country and state struggle with questions of allowing Syrian refugees into the country, the trial of a self-identified refugee from Colombia facing charges of molesting a 7 year-old girl in a grocery store bathroom got underway this week in Bozeman.

The Barreiro-Guerrero case highlights the difficulties faced in vetting refugees from anywhere — not just Syria or the Middle East — for potential criminality.

Johnny Barreiro-Guerrero was arrested in March after police responded to Rosauer’s of Bozeman to reports of him molesting a 7 year old girl who had visited the restroom alone.  According to testimony, the girl’s mother entered the restroom and quickly escorted her daughter out after finding Barriero-Guerrero pinning her daughter against a sink, exposing himself and kissing the girl.

The trial is expected to last until the end of next week.  If convicted, Barreiro-Guerroro could face life in prison or possible deportation from the country.  He has had to communicate with his defense team through a Spanish language interpreter.  Gallatin County Justice Court Judge Bryan Adams set Barriero-Guerrero’s bail at $500,000 in March after prosecutors successfully argued he was a flight risk and already had a plane ticket to leave the state when arrested.

The victim in question testified Tuesday via video conference about the events in March.  Despite lurid details of the accusations being detailed in local news, the defendent’s counsel has alleged that her story has changed through the course of the investigation and is being shaped by her mother and police.

The question of resettlement of refugees — and vetting refugees for potential criminality — has become a prominent across the country.  In Montana, Governor Bullock announced following the Paris Terror attacks that he would not take steps to block Syrian refugees from entering the state if they requested to resettle in the state.  55 Republican legislators have signed a letter to Bullock requesting he block possible resettlement of Syrian refugees after it was found some of the perpetrators of the Paris Terror attacks had entered France posing as refugees from war-torn Syria.  As early as February documents recovered from ISIS showed plans to use migrant resettlements from Northern Africa and the Middle East to infiltrate Europe for terror attacks.

State Democrats have responded to the GOP with their own letter signed by 47 legislators supporting Bullock’s decision, calling the GOP effort “divisive politics,” and saying Bullock does not have the authority to block refugee resettlement in the state.