Former dispatcher receives probation in obstruction case

Keri Knight, a former Edwardsville Police Department dispatcher, walks into the Madison County Criminal Justice Center in Edwardsville on Tuesday.
Keri Knight, a former Edwardsville Police Department dispatcher, walks into the Madison County Criminal Justice Center in Edwardsville on Tuesday. News-Democrat

The former dispatcher convicted of obstructing the investigation into Officer Brian Barker was sentenced to probation, before her husband comes to trial on his felony charges.

Keri Knight Barker was found guilty of two felony counts of obstructing justice in a one-day, non-jury trial before Madison County Circuit Judge Kyle Napp in July. On Wednesday, Napp sentenced her to two years’ probation for the Class 4 felonies.

Last December, officer Brian Barker was arrested and charged with a long string of burglaries of homes and businesses going back 15 years — some of which he is alleged to have perpetrated while on duty and in uniform. He also faces charges involving stolen firearms and arson, relating to the burglary-arson of State Rep. Dwight Kay’s offices in Edwardsville.

At the time, Keri Barker was a dispatcher in the Edwardsville Police Department, was engaged to and living with Barker. When police came to their home shortly before Christmas last year, Keri Barker gave them consent to search it. However, prosecutors said that before police showed up, she had taken a gray Rubbermaid tub full of cash, coins and gold bars to a friend’s house.

Later, Keri Barker and her attorney turned the tub over to police and cooperated with police. Defense attorney Bryce Joiner pointed out that she turned the tub over voluntarily, allowed police to search her house and has never had a criminal history.

Keri and Brian Barker were married on Sept. 4. She is currently six months’ pregnant and has a 14-year-old daughter for whom she is the sole provider, according to her attorney, and is also caring for her stepchildren. She could have been sentenced up to three years in prison on the two felony convictions.

Joiner also filed a post-trial motion for a new trial alleging there was insufficient evidence to convict, which Napp denied. Keri Barker waived her right to make a statement.

Prosecutor Crystal Uhe argued that she benefited indirectly from Brian Barker’s actions and should be held to a higher standard due to her career in law enforcement. “You cannot hide evidence and get away with it,” Uhe said.

Napp told Keri Barker that she is responsible for what she did, while Brian Barker is responsible for what he did. Napp said her pregnancy does not change the sentence, but that there are a number of factors in mitigation that she was required to take into account.

“The problem with this case… is that you were a police officer. Of all the people in the world who should know right from wrong, who are held to a higher standard… You violated every oath that we took,” Napp said. “But I would have to disregard the law to sentence you to prison, and I also took an oath.”

Napp told Keri Barker that she had shamed every officer by her actions, and that the reputation of law enforcement is degraded by the ones who make bad decisions. “You’re one of the few who put a scar on the reputation of the rest of us,” Napp said.

Keri Barker declined to comment after sentencing. Prosecutor Jennifer Mudge said while they had asked for prison time, she felt the judge’s decision was “very fair.”

“We don’t believe she is a risk to society, and she is unlikely to re-offend,” Mudge said.

In addition to 24 months’ probation, Napp sentenced her to pay court costs and perform 100 hours of community service. “You will try to pay back the community you have betrayed,” Napp said.

Brian Barker’s charges are still pending. His next court appearance is in November. Mudge said she hopes his trial will occur by the end of the year.

“Hindering an investigation and attempting to obstruct justice is something that my office and the courts take very seriously, especially when the defendant is a public employee who violated her basic duties,” said Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald