Kristine Barnett ordered to strictly follow gag order in her child neglect case

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Michael Barnett, center, and ex-wife, Kristine Barnett, walk out of Superior 2 after a pretrial conference with Judge Steven Meyer, Friday, Dec. 27, 2019 at the Tippecanoe County Courthouse in Lafayette. The Barnetts are accused of abandoning their adoptive daughter in Lafayette in 2013.
Michael Barnett, center, and ex-wife, Kristine Barnett, walk out of Superior 2 after a pretrial conference with Judge Steven Meyer, Friday, Dec. 27, 2019 at the Tippecanoe County Courthouse in Lafayette. The Barnetts are accused of abandoning their adoptive daughter in Lafayette in 2013.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Kristine Barnett's social media posts might be construed to be a violation of the gag order in her pending neglect of a dependent case that brought international attention, according to Tippecanoe Superior 2 Judge Steve Meyer's order published Friday after Thursday's hearing.

Barnett was summoned to court in February after prosecutors raised concerns about her social media posts that might be comments about her case — and if so, violate the court's October 2019 gag order.

Barnett, a noted author of a book about nurturing an autistic genius, and her now ex-husband, Michael Barnett, are accused of adopting Natalia, a Ukrainian orphan with severe dwarfism, then abandoned her in Lafayette while the rest of the family moved to Canada.

More on Barnett's social media posts: Kristine Barnett summoned to court in May to explain her Facebook posts

Between the time of Natalia's adoption and the Barnetts leaving her in Lafayette, they changed her birth year by court order, making Natalia an adult.

"... (T)he Court discussed the content and intent of the (gag) Order," Meyer's order states. "The Court also reviewed certain Facebook postings by Defendant and discussed how they may indeed be construed to violate the Order."

The order noted that the prosecutors did not ask or seek to have Kristine Barnett held in contempt of court for her postings, so the court did not consider sanctions or whether Kristine Barnett's postings disobeyed the gag order.

"Future violations will not be tolerated," Meyer's order continues. "The parties are admonished to strictly comply with the (gag) Order ... ."

Prosecutors filed a motion in February indicating that Barnett violated the gag order in her neglect of a dependent case.

Prosecutors indicated in February that Kristine Barnett's posts on Facebook crossed the lines established by the Oct. 28, 2019, gag order. However, Barnett's specific posts filed with the court are not open to public inspection.

The case against Kristine and Michael Barnett

Kristine Barnett and Michael Barnett, face four charges of neglect stemming from their treatment and abandonment of their adopted daughter, Natalia Grace, who suffers from severe dwarfism.

The case initially garnered international news coverage because the Barnetts claimed Natalia was an adult posing as a 7-year-old girl when they adopted her in 2010.

The initial allegation of neglect of a dependent was based on Natalia being a child, but in June 2012, a Marion County court approved the Barnetts' motion and changed Natalia's birth year on her Ukrainian records from 2003 to 1989.

That made her an adult in the eyes of the courts and the law. The Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Supreme Court refused to reverse the Marion County court's ruling that changed Natalia's birth year.

Meyer ruled in August 2020 that the court order re-aging Natalia cannot be reversed. Therefore, the state cannot prosecute the Barnetts for the neglect if the charges are based on Natalia's age.

More on the case: Cases involving Kristine Barnett, Michael Barnett filled with twists and turns

Previous Barnett case coverage: Michael and Kristine Barnett's cases might be headed to Indiana Supreme Court

However, if the state wanted to prosecute the Barnetts for neglect because of Natalia's crippling dwarfism, that would be permitted, according to Meyer's ruling, which was affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Prosecutors intend to go to trial on four neglect charges based on Natalia's handicaps.

Meyer also ruled in August 2020 that three neglect charges that happened before July 1, 2014, were dismissed because the statute of limitations had lapsed. Meyer also cited that ruling Friday when he dismissed the fourth neglect charge against Michael Barnett.

Kristine Barnett's trial is scheduled for Oct. 24.

Michael Barnett's trial is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Reach Ron Wilkins at rwilkins@jconline.com. Follow on Twitter: @RonWilkins2.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Child neglect case: Kristine Barnett ordered to follow court gag order