WASHINGTON, D.C. – A mentor for the Peaceoholics has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl inside a D.C. school. Barry Harrison, 51, had been working inside Spingarn High School for just a few days last April when a 15 year old came forward to say she had been assaulted by Harrison in the basement.
Harrison testified in his own defense, denying the allegations– but the jury found him guilty on all five counts.
Barry Harrison had been hired by the Peaceoholics and placed in Spingarn High despite having served more than 20 years in prison for murder. At the time of Harrison’s arrest, the co-founders of the Peaceoholics both said a standard background check had not turned up the conviction.
Still, they defended Harrison. They defended him through the trial and were surprised by the verdict.
“First and foremost,” said Jauhar Abraham, co-founder of the Peaceoholics, “I’d like to say that if I thought that Mr. Harrison was guilty, I wouldn’t support him in any kind of way– but there were a lot of inconsistencies.”
Jauhar Abraham says he sat through the entire trial. He watched the teenage accuser testify. He watched Barry Harrison testify. He doesn’t believe the accuser.
“Barry is the one paying the price, so to speak, but I really think that this is, you know, more of a personal attack really against me and Mo and the Peaceoholics as a whole,” said Abraham.
The teenage girl says she was taken into the basement of the school, where she was sexually assaulted. In order to gain credibility with some of the young people they deal with, the Peaceoholics hire ex-cons. But Ron Moten and Jauhar Abraham said had they known Harrison was a convicted killer, they never would have placed him in the school.
“The only thing that we could get, says Ron Moten, Co-Founder of the Peaceoholics, “was MPD checks that only go back 10 years, but let’s be clear– under the law, right, it still would have been against the law to totally not hire him if we had known he had a murder charge.”
The jury deliberated for several hours over two days before finding Harrison guilty on all five counts.
Although it’s unclear why– the Peaceoholics claim politics– the non-profit has not been allowed to send its mentors inside D.C. schools this year, even though Ron Moten says they are sorely needed to help mediate disputes. Moten says students and parents are asking for their help.