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Fed's Gain is City's Loss

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Erik Barnet Leaves Local Post

After eight years as one of Alexandria’s assistant commonwealth attorneys, Erik Barnet has left to become a federal prosecutor.

On Dec. 2, Barnet became the newest member of the US Attorney’s staff in Federal District Court in Alexandria. “I applied in September of 2001 and wasn’t interviewed until September of this year,” Barnet said. “I applied after the terrorist attacks because I saw the handwriting on the wall and realized that many of the suspected terrorists were going to be tried here in the Eastern District. I’m not typically a flag waving kind of guy but I just felt like I wanted to do my part and that this was a way to do that.”

He will be assigned to the major crimes section. “I guess I’ll get to do a little bit of everything except narcotics,” he said. “I might even get to handle some crimes that occurred here in the city. When I interviewed, I made it clear that I was really interested in prosecuting crimes that occurred in my own city and I hope I get to do some of that.”

His former boss, Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney S. Randolph Sengel, had nothing but praise for Barnet’s work. “He certainly has been a very important part of the office,” Sengel said. “Erik is an excellent trial attorney who has prosecuted some very important cases here. We are going to miss him.”

DURING HIS TENURE, Barnet was involved in everything from prosecuting traffic cases to prosecuting homicides. Two cases in particular stand out for him, though. “Certainly the Suzukawa case is one of those cases that I will always remember,” he said. “Reconstructing cases years after they occurred is always difficult. In this case, it was even more difficult because we had to make victims of sexual assault relive what had happened to them. Dealing with the victims was very difficult. The only good thing is that he is behind bars and that helped many of them come to closure and move on with their lives without the fear that he was still out there.”

Detective Mark Purcell worked many of the sexual assault cases that Barnet handled. “Erik was always there to support us in any way that he could,” Purcell said. “He went with us to interview victims when that was necessary. Sometimes, we went to their houses. They felt much better knowing that the attorney had come to talk to them before court because the courthouse can be pretty intimidating. I don’t remember a time that a case with Erik didn’t go forward because a victim wasn’t there.”

The other case that Barnet most remembers is the knife burglar. “There were two men who burglarized homes in Del Ray,” he said. “They would enter the homes during the day when no one was at home and would take things. They also left knives in different rooms of the homes. Later, one of the suspects who testified for us, said that they did this so that they would have a weapon in any room in case a resident returned. We are very lucky that no one ever did. But it was very traumatic for those people to know that someone had been in their home and to imagine what might have happened had a child come home or some other member of the family happened upon them while they were committing these burglaries. Again, because of the psychological trauma, this case was very difficult.”

Barnet lives in Alexandria and is a part of the community. “I will still be around,” he said. “This is our home.”