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Michael Barisone Updates

Former Olympian Michael Barisone found not guilty by reason of insanity in shooting

Former Olympian Michael Barisone was found not guilty on all charges against him on Thursday, including two for attempted murder — the most serious following a shooting on his upscale Long Valley dressage farm that left a tenant clinging to life.

A 12-member jury in Morris County deliberated for roughly 18 hours following Monday's closing arguments to not convict Barisone, 58, of shooting trainee Lauren Kanarek on Aug. 7, 2019 and twice in the chest. He did not shoot at her fiancé, Robert Goodwin, the jury found.

Barisone, whose illustrious career as a rider and coach was touted by elite athletes during the 11-day trial, broke down shaking and in tears as the jury's foreman read the not guilty counts against him: two charges of first-degree attempted murder and two charges of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.

The jury found Barisone not guilty by reason of insanity on the attempted murder of Kanarek and not guilty for the attempted murder of Goodwin. He was acquitted on the weapons charges.

Barisone will be civilly committed to the Ann Klein Forensic Center in Trenton for 30 days for evaluation and will return to court on May 17. The hearing will be closed to the public, Judge Steven Taylor said. Those found not guilty by reason of insanity can be held in psychiatric hospitals for an amount of time determined by doctors or be released back into the community, should it be safe to do so.

Barisone faced up to 60 years in prison should the judge choose to run each count concurrently. Attempted murder in New Jersey is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and each weapons offense up to 10 years.

The jury declined to convict Barisone of a lesser charge of aggravated assault, which the judge said could be considered.

Morris County Prosecutor Robert Carroll said in a statement that while disappointed with the outcome, the verdict "must be respected."

"I acknowledge the case has elicited strong opinions when it comes to how the public views the defendant and victims in this matter, and I ask that the public respect the jury members and their decision," Carroll said.

Bilinkas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Jury Hears from Victim in Michael Barisone Trial

The jury learns that Michael Barisone, the alternate on the 2008 Olympic U.S. dressage team, was at his breaking point.

By Due South // Nancy Jaffer | March 30, 2022

After ever-escalating tension between dressage trainer Michael Barisone and his student, Lauren Kanarek, reached a boiling point, he came to see her and her boyfriend, Rob Goodwin, on Aug. 7, 2019, saying “he wanted to fix everything.” But he brought a gun.

Kanarek was intending to ask how he could improve the situation, but as soon as she approached him, the gun made an appearance.

“He pulled it out, he pointed it. Boom, boom, Just like that,” she recounted to Morris County Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Schellhorn. Kanarek appeared March 30 at the Morristown, New Jersey, courthouse during the third day of Barisone’s trial on two counts of attempted murder and two weapon possession counts.

With two holes in her chest, Kanarek found her phone was slippery with her blood, but she bashed Barisone on the side of the head with it as Goodwin lay on top of him, working to subdue the 2008 U.S. Olympic dressage team alternate.

Kanarek finally managed to make a 911 call, which was played for the jury. She wiped tears from her eyes while listening to the recording of her cries for help and the ensuing mayhem as Goodwin struggled with Barisone before police descended on Hawthorne Hill Farm in Long Valley, New Jersey.

Lauren Kanarek demonstrates how Barisone drew his gun on her. Nancy Jaffer photo

Kanarek, 41, met Barisone at a clinic in 2018, when he suggested she should bring her horses to his stable and live on the property. The rider had ambitions to reach the higher ranks of dressage, and felt lessons from Barisone could be a key to that.

She characterized Barisone as “charming and nice,” yet noted he had another side.

“When he was angry, you didn’t want to approach him,” she advised.

But by 2019, she was taking more lessons with Barisone’s assistant, Justin Hardin, and also from Mary Haskins Gray, Barisone’s girlfriend, than she was from the top trainer. When defense attorney Ed Bilinkas cross-examined Kanarek, it became obvious that she intensely disliked Gray. The feeling seemed to be mutual.

Appearing in court the previous day, Gray said Kanarek had “the capability to be a great rider” but didn’t put in the time and often didn’t show up when she was scheduled to ride.

“She caused disruption in the stable,” said Gray, noting she told Barisone about her troubled relationship with Kanarek, and explained, “I wasn’t able to deal with it anymore.”

For her part, Kanarek testified, she “wasn’t very excited” about working with Gray, feeling she lacked experience and training.

Kanarek apparently was upset that Barisone divorced his wife, Vera Kessels, in 2018, after starting a relationship with Gray in 2015. Posting on Facebook, Kanarek used dramatic, bizarre analogies of Barisone as a king and alternately, Kessels and Gray as queens. The extent of her feelings surfaced in another post, where she stated, “It’s war.”

Kanarek, who spent four days in a coma and three weeks in the hospital after she was shot, has filed a personal injury lawsuit against Barisone, but that has been put on hold pending resolution of the criminal case. Bilinkas also contended that even before Kanarek was shot, she was planning on suing Barisone for $200,000.

When he suggested to Kanarek that she was bent on destroying Barisone and threatening everything he held dear, she replied, “at some point, yes.”

The attorney is working on an insanity and self-defence strategy for his client, contending that Kanarek and Goodwin were trying to drive him over the edge, recording his conversations, assailing his reputation on Facebook, accusing him of insurance fraud and creating disruption in the stable.

Testimony this week described the depth of his depression, noting he was living in fear and having trouble functioning. He suggested to Ruth Cox, the woman from whom he borrowed the gun used in the shooting, that she should sleep in front of her horse’s stall to discourage any mischief and make sure the gelding was safe.

Both Goodwin and Kanarek, as well as Barisone and Gray, complained about the other couple to the U.S. Equestrian Federation and SafeSport.

Kanarek said she did not, however, make a complaint with the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency, which sent a caseworker who questioned Gray, the mother of two young children.

But as that August 7, 2019 meeting went on, Barisone grabbed a pink and black 9mm gun, jumped into his truck and drove to the farmhouse on the property, where he confronted Goodwin and Kanarek who lived in the building.

Barisone wanted to go on trial, but it was delayed by COVID restrictions that stopped in-person trials for many months. He turned down a plea bargain that would have given him far less time in prison than the maximum of 60 years he could get if found guilty of all charges.

Dressed in a shirt and tie, rather than the yellow jumpsuit he has worn on previous appearances for court hearings, Barisone is shaggy-haired and unshaven as he sits at the defense table. His face often is contorted in pain as he listens to witnesses and the attorneys, sometimes bowing his head and wiping his eyes or holding his head in his hands. After more than two and a half years in the Morris County Correctional Facility, circumstances have dragged him down from being a successful athlete and coach with two farms and a thriving business to a shadow of the man he was.


A former Olympian accused of shooting an up-and-coming dressage rider on his upscale New Jersey farm will stand trial for attempted murder, more than two and a half years after his arrest.

Michael Barisone, 57, the owner of a Long Valley equestrian center, is accused of shooting trainee Lauren Kanarek twice in the chest following months of disputes between the two, and attempting to shoot her fiancé.

Kanarek, 41, and her fiancé, Rob Goodwin, 45, lived in a house on Barisone’s farm at the time of the shooting. Officials have said the couple was engaged in a landlord-tenant dispute with Barisone, who had agreed to let Kanarek live at the farm while she trained under Barisone.

But the relationship soured, leading to the Aug. 7, 2019 shooting, officials said. At least six 911 calls were placed from the farm in the week preceding the shooting.

“I’m taking my life back,” Barisone told a dispatcher during an Aug. 4 call.

The shooting happened at a home on the dressage farm in the early afternoon, officials said. Kanarek and Barisone were having a discussion outside of a home on the property when Barisone shot her in the chest, charging documents said.

Barisone is accused of attempting to shoot Goodwin but missed. Goodwin then tackled Barisone, breaking his arm in the process, charging documents say. Barisone was still pinned to the ground when police arrived.

“I had a good life,” Barisone told police as he was being arrested, charging documents say.

Kanarek sustained serious injuries to her lung, and underwent multiple surgeries to repair the damage. 

Barisone was a member of the 2008 Olympic equestrian team that competed in Beijing, and coached a rider who won a bronze medal in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. Kanarek has won medals at the national level.

Lawyers on both sides have painted a protracted struggle between the two, with each side claiming harassment from the other. Lawyers for Barisone have said in court that Kanarek harassed him and his family daily, refusing to move out of his home when asked and making him fear for his safety.

In a civil suit filed by Kanarek, her lawyers said Barisone harassed her for months and shot at her unprovoked.

“Michael Barisone shot my client point blank and intended to kill her,” Bruce Nagel, Kanarek’s lawyer in the civil suit said on Friday. “He should be convicted and put away for life.”

Barisone previously rejected a plea offer that would have resulted in a 10-year sentence. He faces upwards of 40 years if found guilty at trial.

The trial, which begins on Monday, is expected to last until mid-April. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment.

Barisone has been held in the Morris County Correctional Facility since the shooting. A large volume of documents-- more than 31,000 Facebook posts, videos, and other pieces of evidence-- as well as the pandemic shut-down of trials, have slowed the case.

That delay has taken a significant toll on Barisone, his lawyer, Ed Bilinkas told NJ Advance Media ahead of the trial, who said his client is looking forward to his day in court.

In addition to the criminal charges, Kanarek has filed a civil suit against Barisone, Barisone has filed suit against the Washington Township Police Department, and Barisone and Kanarek have filed dueling SafeSport claims against each other. SafeSport is the organization tasked with overseeing safety in Olympic-level sports.

Barisone has been suspended by the United States Equestrian Federation pending the outcome of the case. Kanarek has not been similarly suspended, and it’s unclear if she has competed in the months since she was shot. An Instagram account shows she has remained active with her horses.

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