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OTTUMWA — The attorney for a former Ottumwa teacher charged with sexual exploitation of a student is again asking the court to throw out the case.

Zachary Barr is charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist, sexual exploitation of a minor, enticing a minor under age 16 and two counts of dissemination of obscene materials to a minor.

The charges against Barr came after a girls mother approached police with concerns about Barr’s online communication with her. Police took over the girl’s social media account and the messages exchanged with Barr.

The new filing reasserts Barr’s claim of entrapment by police, which was the focus of a previous effort to have the case dismissed. The court found a decision on whether police guided Barr to conduct he would not otherwise have committed is best left to jurors.

But it also introduces a new angle. The defense claimed the charges are invalid because no minor was involved in the conduct: “Even if all counts are not dismissed, as a matter of law, Mr. Barr cannot be prosecuted for allegedly exploiting a minor … because he did not cause or attempt to cause a minor [italics in the original] to engage in any prohibited sexual act. Mr. Barr’s communications were with police officers.”

Use of a ruse by police during a criminal investigation is recognized by courts as a legitimate technique, though various courts have reached different conclusions on how far police may go. A judge in Barr’s case has already rejected defense claims that police were required to seek a search warrant prior to posing as the girl Barr was communicating with.

In other area cases:

David Wemer has reversed himself and will contest charges of sexual abuse at a trial. Wemer had been scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing, but the court said “has decided to take the matter to trial,” and scheduled it to begin Oct. 29.

Jacob Heckethorn’s trial on a charge of attempted murder will begin Feb. 11, 2020. It had been scheduled for later this month.

Timothy Chavez was sentenced to five years in prison and a special sentence of parole for 10 years after pleading guilty to lascivious acts with a child — solicitation. The charge was a lesser included offense in the case against him. Chavez, who was already on the state’s sex offender registry, was found naked with a 13-year-old in a Fairfield alley.

— Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.