Delvin Barnes, the 38-year-old man who abducted a woman off a Germantown street in November, pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping charges on Thursday. He now faces an estimated 35 years in prison pending a sentencing hearing in January.
Led into U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner’s courtroom sporting a dark-green jumpsuit and handcuffs, Barnes admitted he kidnapped Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, 22, from the 100 block of W. Coulter St. on Nov. 2, 2014.
The abduction, captured on surveillance video, drew national attention until, and after, she was rescued in Jessup, Md. nearly three days later.
“It was an act of desperation. I can’t make sense of it,” responded the soft-spoken Barnes when asked why he committed the crime. “I grabbed the wrong person, actually. I needed money to get back to Virginia to see my daughter one more time before I turned myself in.”
He also noted that the incident was a robbery that “turned into other things.”
After the hearing, his attorneys couldn’t explain what Barnes meant by grabbing “the wrong person.” At the time, he was wanted in connection with the Oct. 2014 abduction of a 16-year-old Richmond girl who he “allegedly picked up off the street and stuffed in the trunk of a car.”
Pursuant to the plea agreement, which took life in prison off the table in lieu of a 35-year sentence pending upward and downward departures, he will not be charged in connection with that Virginia case.
Neither prosecution nor defense attorneys spoke much during a 35-minute hearing during which Joyner read the plea agreement to Barnes, asking whether he agreed to do so willingly.
Barnes, who said he takes medication daily for depression and anxiety, showed little emotion. He looked down at the defense table throughout as a federal marshal sat four feet behind him, answering “yes, sir” and “no, sir” to the judge’s questions.
Joyner set a Jan. 6, 2016 sentencing date.
The plea agreement calls for the 35-year sentence with five years supervised release and a possible fine. Barnes’ admission of guilt and cooperation with investigators could result in sentence reductions.
The back story
Around 9:40 p.m. on Nov. 2, security cameras near the intersection of W. Coulter and Greene streets in Germantown captured footage of a man forcing Freeland-Gaither into a car after dropping her eyeglasses and cell phone into the street and kicking out the driver-side rear window.
Among many investigative breaks for investigators was learning that Freeland-Gaither’s debit card was used at a stand-alone ATM in Aberdeen, Md. at 6:01 a.m. the next day. Surveillance footage from the ATM showed a male wearing dark clothing using her card.
Three days after the abduction, Freeland-Gaither and the suspect were found in a Jessup, Md. parking lot. After being treated at an area hospital, Freeland-Gaither returned home following an emotional press conference announcing her rescue at the 35th Police District.
In 2005, Barnes was found guilty locally of aggravated assault, criminal trespass and, among other charges, false imprisonment, in a 2005 case involving his estranged wife.