NEW YORK – A Broadway actor, who played the beast in the musical "Beauty and the Beast," pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he had sexual contact several times with a 15-year-old girl.
James Barbour, 40, was charged with five counts of criminal sex acts and sexual abuse against the teen back in 2001. She came forward earlier this year before the five-year statute of limitations expired.
Assistant District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal, speaking at the hearing, said prosecutors were aware of a second case where Barbour allegedly had sexual contact with another underage girl, in California.
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 the teen's high school drama teacher arranged for the girl and her parents to see the show. The teen, whose identity and hometown were withheld by authorities, went backstage by herself after the show, and the actor began sexually touching her, prosecutors said. There was allegedly another incident during dinner at a restaurant and a third in his apartment, authorities said.
In a written statement signed April 4, 2006, and made public Wednesday by Rosenthal, Barbour said sexual contact with the girl was initiated by her when he had dinner with the teen 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."
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, he and the teen went to his apartment, the statement said, where they wound up on his bed. "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."
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.
Rosenthal also said there were tapes of Barbour speaking with the 15-year-old about the case. "He himself refers to it as unethical," said Rosenthal, who provided the defense with a copy of the conversation tapes.
Because the incident with the second girl happened in California, no additional charges can be brought in New York City, Rosenthal said. But she 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.
Barbour, who appeared in replacement casts of "Beauty and the Beast," "Urinetown" and a revival of "Carousel," was last seen on Broadway in 2004 in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins."