NACOGDOCHES — The plea agreement deadline has been delayed for two weeks for a Shelby County man accused of posting an online advertisement seeking to abuse, kill and eat a child.
Federal senior district Judge Ron Clark recently granted an unopposed motion to extend the deadline for Alexander Nathan Barter of Joaquin to reach a plea deal by 14 days, moving the date from July 15 to July 30.
Clark said in his order that the delay would “permit the parties to resolve legal issues and permit the defendant an opportunity to explore a pretrial resolution to the case.” Barter’s attorney John D. McElroy has previously said in court filings Barter is open to a plea deal.
Prosecutors filed the motion for the delay, citing large quantities of digital evidence which needed extensive forensic analysis and recently discovered sentencing guidelines that could have a “significant impact” on the plea offer.
“[I]t is in the interest of justice to allow the government to complete its research and to extend a fair and accurate plea offer to the defense,” U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown wrote in the filing.
In addition to Brown, the case is being prosecuted by Jennifer Toritto Leonardo, the senior attorney for the Justice Department’s child exploitation and obscenity division.
Barter is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 19 in Lufkin if the plea deal can’t be reached.
He was arrested in October after he posted an ad on the dark web — a heavily encrypted collection of websites often used for illegal activity — seeking a child to abuse and cannibalize, law enforcement agents have said. The ad was discovered by an undercover deputy from Central Florida who is also an agent for a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement task force, investigators have said.
The agent offered a child to Barter, who showed up at a prearranged meeting in Joaquin with a knife and plastic bags, Brevard County, Florida, Sheriff Wayne Ivey has said.
When Barter was taken into custody, investigators found at least half a dozen videos and images of child pornography on electronic devices he owned, according to the indictment against him. At least three videos contain images of children being tortured, according to court filings.
Barter’s been in federal custody since his arrest but legal proceedings came to a halt after he was initially indicted in November when a psychiatric evaluation was ordered.
The evaluation by Dr. Tennille Warren-Phillips found that Barter is competent to stand trial. Barter’s full competency evaluation was given to his defense attorney and prosecutors but remains sealed from public view.
In addition to the criminal charges, prosecutors also are seeking to seize 39 pieces of electronic equipment believed to have been used to store and transmit child pornography.