Fourth Judicial District prosecutors will not pursue charges against Huntsville School District employees, something former football coach and dean of students Randy Barnhill had sought.
“I’m not filing on that one,” said deputy prosecutor Brent Bryant last Tuesday.
“The short answer to it is that that was the school’s iPad and he’s (Barnhill) complaining of the school officials reading his messages on their own computer.
“I understand that it’s more complicated than that, but at the end of the day that’s kind of my ... that’s where I’m leaving it.”
Barnhill sought to press charges against current coach Matt Williams for “illegally intercepted text messages.” Barnhill initially filed a complaint with the Fayetteville Police Department, then did the same with the Huntsville Police Department.
Williams succeeded Barnhill as Huntsville’s head football coach in 2019.
Barnhill, who lives in Fayetteville, in September 2019 was escorted from Huntsville High School after text messages were discovered between himself and Elkins Head Football Coach Bryan Hutson, in which Barnhill provided Hutson information about the HHS football team’s playbook, including plays and signals.
The messages offered insights into Huntsville’s football team, play calls, alignments and other inside information. The exchanges happened leading up to when Elkins played at Huntsville on Sept. 20 last season.
Elkins won the game 35-0. The text messages between Barnhill and Hutson were discovered on the Huntsville football team’s iPad, which had been linked to Barnhill’s iTunes account.
Barnhill later resigned his position with the school district while Hutson was given a one-week suspension without pay. Barnhill on his Facebook page said he now works as an account executive with Smart Data Dashboard.
Barnhill did not return a text message last week seeking comment on the prosecutor’s decision.
Williams in a text wrote, “Never was worried because I knew that no one did anything wrong and had a lot of people to back that up. Just glad it’s over so we can move on.”
Bryant added, “I understand that he (Barnhill) may have some remedy civilly, that there might have been some civil liability of the school. I’m not saying there is, I really doubt there is, but he’s certainly free to pursue that if he chooses to.”
Bryant noted that if any kind of prosecution were possible, it would not be with the state.
“Whether or not there’s any violation of any federal laws that I’m not familiar with, I have no idea, but as far as the state is concerned and the school officials receiving messages that were on state-owned property of theirs, I’m not going to pursue that as a criminal matter.
“Frankly, I’m not even sure who I would be charging criminally. ... His remedy, if there is one at all, I think lies in civil court,” he said.
Bryant said he looked objectively at the case.
“I think it’s a dead-end,” he said. “I think he’s pissed off and I understand the emotions are high on this matter in both directions. I don’t have a dog in the fight either way, just looking at it objectively and anything that I see that may or may not be there, just to me is not a good use of our resources to be litigating an issue that I think is more civil in nature if anything at all.”
Bryant said the issue came down to a school district employee who used school equipment to send messages to another coach.
“Would this have been a separate matter if that had been his personal iPad that he was communicating with the other coach on and someone from the school had hacked into his personal computer? I suspect it would have been a completely different matter, but it’s their computer,” he said.
The possible criminal case is over, Bryant said.
“Criminally it stops at this point, unless there were some sort of federal communications law that I’m not aware of ... if an assistant U.S. attorney, if they were to look at it and say, ‘hey, this is in violation of U.S. Code’ ... then ‘giddy up,’ but I don’t have any idea.”