A man who was caught in the Grayson County Courthouse late last week led to the termination Wednesday of a woman who sought to help him. District Attorney Joe Brown announced that he had terminated county law librarian Virginia Eldridge after an investigation into the incident.
Eldridge, Brown said in the news release, had allowed Joshua Barrier to stay in the Grayson County Law Library after hours for a couple of months before he was found there by police on April 28 at 12:30 a.m. Brown said both Barrier and Eldridge were cooperative with officials as they investigated the incident. It was what officials found out about what Barrier was doing while in the library that led to Eldridge’s dismissal.
“Barrier has a lengthy criminal history, including a conviction for burglary and multiple convictions for theft,” Brown said. “Officers found Barrier in the law library and personal items indicating that he had been using a public access computer terminal.”
Barrier told deputies that Eldridge had allowed him to stay in the library after hours but because they were unable to immediately confirm that statement with Eldridge, deputies arrested Barrier for criminal trespass. He was released a short time later when Eldridge confirmed that she had allowed him to stay in the library.
The D.A.’s office conducted an administrative review of the incident, and Eldridge again admitted to allowing Barrier, who was a frequent user of the law library, to stay after hours, unsupervised, so that he could complete legal research. Eldridge said she had allowed attorneys to remain in the law library past closing in the past as well.
“The initial report from the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office and Sherman Police Department to the DA’s Office was that no evidence was recovered in the April 28th incident that indicated that Barrier had committed any criminal offense during his times of unsupervised access to the Grayson County Courthouse,” Brown said.
Barrier allowed investigators to review the file box and paperwork that he had with him in the law library, and investigators found only paperwork related to Barrier’s legal cases which he was researching, Brown said. However, they also found a copy of a social security card of another individual and a driver’s license of a different individual, neither of which were Barrier.
“It is undetermined at this point what connection, if any, the individuals were to Barrier,” Brown said.
But then on Tuesday, Barrier was arrested on one count of online solicitation of a minor. The arrest arose from an investigation by the Whitesboro Police Department beginning in January of a report by the parents of a 16-year-old boy that their son had been having inappropriate sexual conversations with an adult on Facebook who was identified on Facebook as Joshua J. Barrier. Brown said police obtained Facebook records related to the account of Joshua Barrier and identified Barrier as the owner of the account. Investigators also obtained records identifying the Internet Protocol address from which Barrier’s Facebook postings had been made. Among several IP addresses identified with Barrier’s computer usage was the IP address for the Grayson County computer network.
“When Mr. Barrier was first found in the law library, and for several days thereafter, I was not aware of the separate Whitesboro investigation of his solicitation of the minor,” Brown said. “Until Wednesday morning, we were dealing with this issue because a known thief and criminal had been allowed to stay in the courthouse all night long, unsupervised. We were dealing with that terrible decision Monday and Tuesday, and then we found out Wednesday morning that Barrier had apparently been using the county computer network to contact this minor. It is inexcusable that this occurred.”
Brown said Eldridge’s employment was terminated at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“From everything we know at this point, we do not believe that Ms. Eldridge had any knowledge of Mr. Barrier’s illegal conduct. There is no evidence at this point of any personal relationship between Barrier and Eldridge. She has been a model employee and has done wonderful things with the county’s law library. Everyone I know loves Virginia. She works especially hard to help all of the citizens who have legal problems at the library. I am convinced, based on what I know at this point, that she was taken advantage of by a bad guy. She got caught up in his story and made a terrible decision to allow him to be in the courthouse unsupervised. That decision, however, showed very poor judgment, and it put county property at risk, it exposed other county employees to risk, and ultimately it helped enable Mr. Barrier’s criminal conduct.”
“I am convinced, based on what I know at this point, that she was taken advantage of by a bad guy. She got caught up in his story and made a terrible decision to allow him to be in the courthouse unsupervised. That decision, however, showed very poor judgment, and it put county property at risk, it exposed other county employees to risk, and ultimately it helped enable Mr. Barrier’s criminal conduct.”
Brown said the law librarian in Grayson County is designated as an employee of his office. Eldridge, who is a professional librarian with a master’s degree in Library Science, and another part-time employee run the library. Brown said he did not micromanage how Eldridge ran the library and she was acting within her job description to determine when and who would be allowed access to the law library. She has been the librarian since January of 2007.