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Rape charges dropped against freed convict

New rape charges against a convicted rapist who was freed in 1986 amid controversy have been dropped.

Johnny Barnes had been convicted of rape in 1981. He was freed five years later after a state review prompted by newspaper stories critical of the original investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Last month Barnes was charged in a Jan. 19 attack on a 23-year-old Bradenton woman. The charges were were dropped Wednesday.

Assistant State Attorney Deno Economou said the charges were dropped because the accuser contradicted herself repeatedly, there was a lack of corroborating evidence, and Barnes passed a lie-detector test.

"There is not enough evidence for me to feel comfortable filing charges and presenting it before a jury," Economou said.

Sheriff Charlie Wells reacted angrily. "I think it's the second time a guilty man is walking free," he said.

Wells said detectives may regroup, continue the investigation and possibly rearrest Barnes.

"Is Johnny Barnes a free man? Believe me, the answer is no," Wells said.

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