An Olympic dressage trainer accused of shooting his student has been acquitted of attempted murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity in a case that has stunned the elite dressage community.
Michael Barisone, 57, an Olympic runner, said he was defending himself when he shot Lauren Kanarek twice in the chest in August 2019 at his training facility and farm in Long Valley, NJ. Kanarek and her fiancé lived on the farm, but a feud escalated when Barisone and his fiancée moved into a barn on the property. Barisone claimed Kanarek mentally abused him.
Barisone was facing two counts of attempted murder and two counts of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. A Morris County, NJ, jury found Barisone not guilty by reason of insanity on one count of attempted first-degree murder and one count of second-degree weapon possession. The jury also found Barisone not guilty on the other two counts.
Kanarek’s attorney, Bruce Nagel, harshly criticized the jury’s decision. Robert J. Carroll, the Morris County attorney, said in a statement that the result was disappointing but “must be respected.”
During the two-week trial, Barisone’s attorney, Edward J. Bilinkas, accused Kanarek of subjecting Barisone to mental abuse that caused him to shoot him. Bilinkas said that in the moments before the shooting, Kanarek and her fiancé, Robert Goodwin, beat Barisone and their dog attacked him. Bilinkas said Kanarek also posted inflammatory messages about Barisone on social media.
In the days leading up to the shooting, Barisone had called 911 several times, claiming that Kanarek and her fiancé were squatters and were harassing him. In an appeal, Barisone described the conflict as “a war. And it will be fixed. »
Kanarek survived the shooting, but was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent major surgery to repair her left lung. When she recovered, Kanarek was met with a barrage of comments on social media from Barisone supporters who blamed her for the shooting and said she deserved it.
Support for Barisone’s case has been bolstered by his position in the sport. Barisone was a reserve rider on the United States dressage team at the 2008 Olympics and trained Olympians like Allison Brock, one of the United States team riders who won a bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.
Kanarek was a promising newcomer to dressage and moved with her horses to train at Barisone Farm in 2018. As part of the arrangement, she and her fiancé lived in an apartment on a farm. But when a flood forced Barisone and his fiancee to move into a barn on the property, Barisone tried to evict Kanarek and Goodwin from the apartment so he could live there, Kanarek told The New York Times in 2019. .
Kanarek had used Facebook to detail her longstanding dispute with him. Five days before she was shot, Kanarek warned that her life was in danger.
“We are delighted with the verdict,” Bilinkas, Barisone’s lawyer, said on Friday. “For two and a half years, Michael Barisone has been waiting to tell his story and let people know what happened to him, what those people did to him. For the first time, he is in a position where he can get his life back.
In an appearance on Court TV after the decision, Nagel, Kanarek’s attorney, called the decision a “miscarriage of justice” and a jury error.
“If he was temporarily insane, why did he sit in that courtroom every day looking disheveled and looking like a madman?” Nagel said. “He did it because he put on a show and the jury bought it, hook, line and sinker. This is not temporary madness. It’s fraud, it’s a scheme, it was a show and he got away with it.
When the foreman of the jury read the verdict, Barisone fell into the arms of his lawyer. Barisone was immediately transferred to a mental health facility for evaluation. A hearing on the insanity decision is scheduled for May 17, when Judge Stephen Taylor will determine whether Barisone needs further treatment or can be released.