NEW YORK (AP) — A prominent Broadway actor, known for playing the beast in Disney's family-friendly Beauty and the Beast,
pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he had sexual contact several times with a 15-year-old girl — including once in his dressing room.
James Barbour, 40, was charged with five counts of criminal sex acts and sexual abuse against the teen in 2001. She came forward earlier this year before the five-year statute of limitations expired.
Assistant District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal said prosecutors were aware of a second case where Barbour allegedly had sexual contact with another underage girl, in California.
Rosenthal said that if the New York case goes to trial, she will try to introduce evidence regarding the uncharged California case. She did not discuss specifics.
Defense attorney David Smith said there was nothing new about any of the charges.
"These are the very same allegations he was aware of several months ago," said Smith. "...We were aware of the second allegation as well. That occurred over seven years ago."
According to prosecutors, Barbour was starring in the musical Jane Eyre
in 2001 when a high school drama teacher arranged for the girl and her parents to see the show. The girl came backstage by herself after the show, and the actor began sexually touching her, prosecutors said.
There was allegedly another incident with the same girl during a dinner at an Eighth Avenue restaurant, and a third in his Upper West Side apartment, authorities said.
In a written statement signed April 4, 2006, and made public Wednesday by Rosenthal, Barbour said sexual contact with the girl, a student at his alma mater, was initiated by her when he had dinner with her and her boyfriend.
"At that dinner, I was sitting next to her and our knees touched," the statement said. "Her hand was on my knee and rubbed up against my (illegible)."
The girl later told him she was 16 and wanted to pursue a career in theater, Barbour's statement said. He said he offered to help and stayed in contact with her through e-mail, the statement said.
During a subsequent telephone conversation, the statement said, Barbour asked the girl what she was thinking the night they had dinner together, "and she said 'I was thinking I wanted to"' have sex with him.
One evening before Barbour's performance in Jane Eyre,
he and the girl went to his Upper West Side apartment, the statement said.
"We were laying (sic) on the bed and she spoke about losing her virginity to (her boyfriend)" and discussed sex acts, Barbour's statement said. "We did kiss, and then she originated again about sexual intercourse."
"At that time I sort of freaked out, said she was 16, and that I couldn't do this," the statement said. "The relationship stopped suddenly because I thought it was inappropriate and could get dangerous."
Because the incident with the second girl happened in California, no additional charges can be brought in the borough, Rosenthal said.
The name and hometown of the girl in the New York case were withheld. Barbour, who lives in California, put up $10,000 cash bail and was released on Wednesday. He was ordered to surrender his passport, and to return for a Dec. 20 court date.
His lawyer, in arguing for lower bail, noted that Barbour had no criminal history and that the girl made no claims of sexual intercourse. Barbour's other Broadway credits include appearances in Carousel
Rosenthal also said there were tapes of Barbour speaking by telephone with the alleged 15-year-old victim about the case. "He himself refers to it as unethical," said Rosenthal, who provided the defense with a copy of the conversation tapes.