Broadway actor pleads guillty to sex charges

January 3, 2008 6:50:07 PM PST
A Broadway actor accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl at a theater and in his home pleaded guilty Thursday to two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a minor. James Barbour, 41, pleaded guilty in exchange for 60 days in jail and three years probation when he is sentenced Feb. 29. Because the counts are misdemeanors, he will not have to register as a sex offender.

Despite guilty pleas to endangering a child, Barbour admitted to the court - at the prosecutor's insistence - many of the sexual specifics of which he was originally accused.

Barbour, who played the beast in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," was starring on Broadway in "Jane Eyre" in June 2001 when a high school drama teacher arranged for the girl - an aspiring actress - and her parents to see the musical.

The actor admitted that when the girl came backstage alone to see him after the show on the last weekend of its run, he began touching her sexually.

The next month, the teen visited Barbour at his Upper West Side apartment where another instance of sexual touching occurred, the actor told the court. He said he knew the girl was 15.

Barbour's lawyer, Ronald P. Fischetti, said his client pleaded guilty so he could put this case behind him and get on with his career.

"By pleading guilty to misdemeanors, he doesn't have to register (as a sex offender), and that's important," the lawyer said. "He wouldn't have been able to travel without reporting, and he wouldn't have been able to work with children."

Fischetti blamed the girl for Barbour's troubles and questioned her motives, saying, "She initiated both of these sexual encounters and then waited five years before filing a complaint against him."

Meanwhile, Fischetti has a case before the state Court of Appeals, New York's highest tribunal, seeking permission to publish the victim's name in ads that ask men to report whether she ever filed false sex abuse charges against them.

The judge had barred Fischetti from running such ads or setting up a telephone hot line to receive calls about her.