Professional rock climber sentenced to life in prison for sexual assaults in Yosemite National Park

A 40-year-old professional rock climber has been sentenced to life in prison for the brutal, repeated sexual assaults of a young woman in Yosemite National Park in 2016.

A federal jury in February found Charles Barrett guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact that happened over a weekend in Yosemite National Park, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California.

Prosecutors said Barrett sexually assaulted a 19-year-old who was in the park for a weekend of hiking.

Barrett’s attorneys had asked the judge for a sentence of less than 15 and a half years, citing his alcoholism and mental instability.

“Barrett’s long history of sexual violence supports the imposition of a life sentence,” U.S. Attorney Talbert said in a news release following sentencing. “He used his status as a prominent climber to assault women in the rock-climbing community, and when his victims began to tell, Barrett responded by lashing out publicly with threats and intimidation."

David Torres, one of Barrett's attorneys, said they plan to appeal the case.

"We believe that imposition of a life sentence was excessive," Torres said.

Read more: Professional rock climber convicted of sexually assaulting woman in Yosemite in 2016

Barrett, who lived and worked in the national park, isolated a 19-year-old woman and forcibly raped her in August 2016, prosecutors said in a sentencing memo. Prosecutors said Barrett strangled the woman during the assault to the point that she feared death.

The next day, the woman — identified in court documents as K.G. — was sore and had bruises on her body. Despite that and the woman’s resistance, prosecutors said, Barrett twice sexually assaulted her again.

After the woman left the park, Barrett later told her in a text message that he wanted to see her again. But she told him that he had raped her and she never wanted to see him. Barrett denied raping the woman and wrote in a later message, “Can we be friends? I miss you.”

She replied, “I find it hard to be friends with guys who rape me.”

He continued to message her about the assault, according to prosecutors. She reported the incident in April 2020. Within days of going to police, she started to receive mysterious text messages and phone calls from an unknown number, court documents show.

Three other women testified at trial that Barrett had also sexually assaulted them. The assaults, which occurred in 2010, 2015 and 2016, were not charged because they were outside federal jurisdiction, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

One woman, described in court documents only by her initials S.F., said that in March 2010 Barrett assaulted her by rubbing her genitalia with his hand while she was sleeping at a friend’s house, prosecutors said. For years after, Barrett harassed S.F. online, including threatening her directly and through third parties.

Barrett was eventually convicted for criminal threats he made in 2022, prosecutors said.

In Barrett's sentencing memo, his attorneys noted that he "does possess redeeming qualities despite comments made to the contrary by the Government and those who have submitted letters against Charles."

"Mr. Barrett has recognized his demons," they wrote.

But prosecutors in their memo said that Barrett has refused to accept responsibility for his crimes.

While in custody, prosecutors said, Barrett made hundreds of phone calls, where he threatened the victims with violence and vindictive lawsuits and claimed that two victims designed a conspiracy to ruin his life.

Last month, on a call with his uncle, Barrett referred to the victims' accounts as “wild” and “crazy” — claiming the trial amounted to “random girls saying whatever they wanted.” He claimed he hadn't received a fair trial and said he was writing a book.

"Barrett’s jail calls continue to show a complete lack of remorse and a mentality of victimhood that cannot be rehabilitated," prosecutors said in their memo.

Local news outlets reported that the four victims were in court when Barrett was sentenced.

“There is only one way to stop a serial rapist and seasoned criminal like [Barrett]," K.G. wrote in her victim impact statement. "It is to not give him another chance to prove what he is capable of."

Times staff writer Nathan Solis contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.