A Cook County judge who had cleared a longtime Chicago police sergeant of the sexual assault of a colleague’s young daughter, convicting him instead of misdemeanor battery, ordered the cop Wednesday to undergo up to two years of sex offender counseling.

In explaining the unusual move, Judge Charles Burns said prosecutors had failed at trial to prove, as required by law, that Dennis Barnes fondled the girl for his own sexual arousal, yet the judge said he believed “something was going on, and that’s something that I find disturbing.”

The alleged victim’s mother, herself a Chicago police officer who had invited Barnes to her home for the first time for a family barbecue, blasted the judge’s decision, saying she felt Barnes had been given preferential treatment because he was a Chicago cop.

“I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it because of all the evidence,” she said, wiping away tears after court Wednesday as she recalled the judge’s decision to find Barnes guilty of a lesser, nonsexual offense after a short bench trial in January. “The judge even admitted that it disgusted him, so why would you say it’s only a misdemeanor battery?”

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