Military says officer wasn't called to Iraq

Policeman is accused of falsely claiming duty

Hanover man charged with theft

Officials say he collected pay for nearly 2 months

October 24, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County police officer charged with theft after being accused of collecting a paycheck from the department while falsely claiming to be serving in Iraq had not been called up for reserves duty during the past four years, military officials said last week.

Steve Stromvall, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Reserve, confirmed that Officer Andrew Barnett, 48, of Hanover is a member of the Individual Ready Reserve. But, he said, military records show that Barnett is not among the more than 5,600 such reservists who have been or are being called up to play support roles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The IRR is a rarely used pool of Army reservists who do not train or belong to units but collect several thousand dollars a year.

"Being in the IRR means he could get called up, but he has not been," Stromvall said.

Barnett has been suspended without pay since February. Police revealed last week that Barnett had been charged in August.

Laura Robinson, one of Barnett's lawyers, said last week that her client "vehemently denies" the allegations against him. She declined Friday to comment on Barnett's military record but said that he is looking forward to his day in court.

Stromvall said he did not know when Barnett began his military service but that he was on active duty with the Army until 1992. He has been with the IRR since 2000.

According to a review of public records, Barnett has previously listed several Army posts, including Fort Meade and one in Hawaii, as his mailing addresses.

Officials at those posts declined to confirm whether Barnett had ever resided there. They would not discuss his military record.

Suspicions about Barnett, a patrolman in the county's western district, arose in February, when a departmental review of personnel files revealed that he had not submitted the required military service paperwork after going on leave in December.

That break from regulations sent up a red flag, police said, and investigators began looking into the whereabouts of the eight-year veteran.

According to Lt. Edward Bergin, who led the Police Department's investigation, Barnett told his supervisors in December that the Army had called him to duty overseas.

He was given the time off and was absent from the department through February.

In accordance with department regulations, which have since changed, Barnett was paid about two months of his $48,303 annual salary, Bergin said. That adds up to about $7,400 before taxes. But military officials confirmed to police that Barnett had not been deployed, Bergin said. A felony theft conviction carries a sentence of up to 15 years.

Bergin said he does not know exactly where Barnett was during those two months.

The case has bewildered some of those who know or worked with Barnett and recalled his pleasant demeanor and deep faith. In 2000, The Capital reported that the West County Chamber of Commerce honored Barnett as its Police Officer of the Year.

"I would never expect these allegations to be made against him," said Matt Trott, a Fraternal Order of Police member who worked with Barnett in the western district for about four years.

"The Andy Barnett I know is of high moral character. ... This is not of his nature, that I know of," Trott said.

Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan issued a statement last week: "While it's embarrassing for a law enforcement agency to have its employee participate in this type of behavior, I am pleased to see that the management of the department took appropriate action."

Barnett has offered no explanations or comments about his case. Calls to his Hanover home have not been returned. And when a reporter knocked on Barnett's door Thursday night, someone inside the house turned off the lights and closed the curtains.

Barnett's trial is scheduled for Nov. 18.

Sun staff writer Molly Knight contributed to this article.

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