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Published: Tuesday, 5/6/2008

Former state rep from Norwalk won't face charges over porn incident

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NORWALK, Ohio A former state representative will not be prosecuted for lying to police about whether he knew women who appeared topless in images on his computer, one of which was shown during a high school lecture on how a bill becomes a law, the city law director said.

A special prosecutor reviewing the case, Sandusky County Prosecutor Thomas Stierwalt, decided there was not enough evidence to charge Matthew Barrett with obstructing official business and falsification, Norwalk City Law Director G. Stuart O'Hara Jr. said.

The image was projected after Barrett, of Amherst, inserted a data memory stick into the computer for his lecture in October to a U.S. government class of about 20 students at Norwalk High School, about 50 miles west of Cleveland.

Barrett at first told authorities he didn't know how the image had become intermingled with his graphics presentation and said it must have belonged to his son. He later acknowledged that he had not been truthful and resigned on April.

Beth Tischler, an assistant prosecutor in Stierwalt's office, said the investigation's direction was based on Barrett's claim that he did not know the women in the photographs and the fact his son admitted to downloading the images.

But investigative documents released Monday indicated that a 39-year-old woman from Bloomville in Seneca County said she sent photos of herself to Barrett, not his son, at his request in January 2007.

A second woman, a 38-year-old from Amherst, in Lorain County, told investigators she sent photos to Barrett a few years ago after meeting Barrett through mutual friends.

A message requesting comment was left Tuesday for Barrett at his law office in Lorain.

Barrett's attorney, Jack Bradley, said Barrett didn't lie about what was the focus of the investigation: whether the image was intentionally displayed to the class. Bradley said it was unintentional.

"Any statements that were made were not made under oath and police had made clear to him they were not undertaking an investigation into who the women were on the flash drive," said Bradley. "I believe he was trying to protect his family and the women involved. Sometimes, good people make bad decisions."

Read more in later ediitons of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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