Rock Climber Gets Life in Prison for Sexual Assaults at Yosemite


A professional rock climber who repeatedly sexually assaulted a woman during a weekend trip to Yosemite National Park in 2016 was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison, prosecutors said.

The climber, Charles Barrett, 40, was given the maximum penalty for his conviction in February on two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact, Phillip A. Talbert, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. Barrett “used his status as a prominent climber to assault women in the rock-climbing community,” Mr. Talbert said. Three other women testified that he had sexually assaulted them, though their cases were not federally charged because they fell out of the prosecutors’ jurisdiction. “Barrett’s long history of sexual violence supports the imposition of a life sentence,” Mr. Talbert said.

Timothy Patrick Hennessy and David A. Torres, the lawyers for Mr. Barrett, said in a joint statement on Tuesday: “We believe that imposition of a life sentence was excessive. Nevertheless, we will file an appeal.”

The case illustrates growing concerns about the risk of sexual harassment and abuse faced by women increasingly engaged in the sport of mountaineering, as more of them have shared their stories of harassment or worse.

In August 2016, Mr. Barrett was living and working at Yosemite National Park when a 19-year-old woman visited the park for a weekend of hiking, prosecutors said in court records. The park encompasses more than 747,000 acres along the central western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in east-central California.

Mr. Barrett sexually assaulted her three times in the woods and “he strangled her to the point that she feared death,” according to court records and evidence presented at trial. Prosecutors did not name the woman, but the abuse was detailed in court papers.

“I remember getting to the point, thinking, if he kills me this is it,” a woman who said she was abused by Mr. Barrett recounted in an affidavit.

Charles Barrett “used his status as a prominent climber” to target women who were rock climbers, the prosecutor said.Credit…Mono County Sheriff’s Office

Prosecutors said that Mr. Barrett had a history of “lashing out publicly with threats and intimidation” toward his victims.

In 2017, seven years after he assaulted one of the other victims who testified at the trial, Mr. Barrett purposely climbed at a rock-climbing gym where the victim attended, prosecutors said.

“She then disclosed Barrett’s assault on her to the gym owner in the interest of protecting other women at the gym,’’ the U.S. attorney’s office said, adding that Mr. Barrett responded by harassing and threatening the woman for several years.

In August 2022, Mr. Barrett was convicted of the criminal threats he made in January 2022, prosecutors said.

While he was being held in jail in the 2016 Yosemite case, Barrett made hundreds of phone calls to victims in which “he showed no remorse or regret,” Mr. Talbert’s office said.

“Instead, he threatened to use violence and vindictive lawsuits against the victims,” the office said.

Mr. Barrett has been an inmate at the Sacramento County Jail in California, a spokeswoman for Mr. Talbert’s office said on Tuesday.

Cicely Muldoon, the superintendent of Yosemite National Park, said in the statement that Mr. Barrett’s “sentencing sends a clear message about the consequences of this criminal behavior.”

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