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Pro rock climber convicted of sex assault used his fame to lure victims to Yosemite, officials say

Charles Barrett, a professional climber living in Yosemite, was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman who was visiting the national park.
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A view of Glacier Point trail in Yosemite National Park, Calif., in 2013.Tammy Webber / AP file

A professional rock climber known in the California climbing community was convicted Tuesday of sexually assaulting a woman in Yosemite National Park in 2016, federal prosecutors said.

A jury convicted Charles Barrett, 38, of two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California said.

Barrett used force to have sex with the victim during a weekend in August, according to court documents.

The charges on which he has been convicted carry up to life in prison, the U.S. attorney’s office said, but sentencing guidelines and other factors play a role. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21.

Barrett was indicted in 2022. He was charged with crimes against one woman, but three other women testified at trial that he also victimized them, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Those cases were not criminally charged federally because they did not happen in federal jurisdiction, it said.

U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said Barrett used his fame to lure victims to the park, where he lived and worked at the time.

“This defendant used his renown and physical presence as a rock climber to lure and intimidate victims who were part of the rock-climbing community,” Talbert said in a statement. “His violent sexual assaults were devastating to the victims, whom he later threatened in the lead-up to trial.”

Outside magazine, which focuses on rock climbing and other sports, described Barrett as a prominent member of the Northern California climbing community.

The victim went for a weekend of hiking at Yosemite and had messaged Barrett for hiking recommendations and ultimately met with him, prosecutors wrote in a trial brief. Barrett allegedly sexually assaulted her three times during the weekend, prosecutors wrote.

"When she felt like she could safely escape without angering him, she drove home," prosecutors wrote in the brief. The woman reported the sexual assaults to Yosemite officials in 2020.

Barrett's attorneys, Timothy Hennessy and David Torres, said that they do not believe the evidence warranted a guilty verdict but that they respected the jury's decision. Barrett intends to appeal and believes evidence can vindicate him, the attorneys said.

"Mr. Barrett knew going into this that it would be a long fight to clear his name. But it is a fight he will not give up," Hennessy and Torres said in a statement Tuesday.