Earlier this year, the 58-year-old former Olympic equestrianTried for attempted murder of his own equestrian student, Lauren Kanarek, in a Morristown, New Jersey, courtroom. Barrisone’s legal team of Ed Billinkus and Christopher Deininger will bet on an unusual defense. He claimed that Barrisone was insane at the time of the shooting, and was not legally responsible for his actions. Arguments of insanity are uncommon and rarely succeed. Barrisone’s defense would be that Lauren Kanarek sidelined her in large part from her use of social media.
Michael Barrisone speaks in his first television interview since the end of his trial in “The Shooting of Lauren Kanarek”, the 35th season premiere of “48 Hours”.
It was as big a fall from grace as his elite equestrian sport had ever seen. Barrisone excelled in dressage – training horses to dance. He was considered one of the best coaches in the world, having taught fellow Olympians such as Boyd Martin and Allison Brock, and represented Team USA in Beijing.
Barrisone owned two great horse farms, one outside Palm Beach, the other in prime New Jersey horse country. He called it Hawthorne Hill. Lauren Kanarek began training there with Barrisone in March 2018. Kanarek had his own equestrian dreams, and was soon paying $5,000 a month for training, riding his horses, and living in a farmhouse on Barrisone’s estate. For an amateur like Kanrek, it seemed like the last arrangement, an equestrian student being coached by one of the masters in the sport.
But by the summer of 2019, the system had deteriorated and would soon become explosive. Hawthorne Hill staff members tell “48 Hours” contributorThe relationship between Barrisone and Kanarek began to sour over Kanarek’s expectations about his training. She wanted coaching more directly from Barrisone, not her assistant coaches.
Kanarek, an active user of social media, began posting her dramatic complaints on Facebook. And in the summer of 2019 they increased. On July 25, 2019, Kanarek posted, “It’s probably time to go to war. Anyone who repeatedly kicks a resting animal will eventually wake it up!” In another post he described Barrisone as “racist, homophobic,” and “anti-Jewish” – charges Barrisone passionately denied.
“There were things coming out on social media that were appalling,” Barrisone told Batiste in an exclusive interview. Barrisone says he was horrified and intimidated by Lauren’s posting. “I remember full and utter panic,” Barrisone said. “Everyone says I was uncluttered. I was unchallenged.” Barrisone’s supporters say his posting was unfairly damaging his reputation, and they worried it would ruin his business.
Barrisone claims that she asked Kanarek and her boyfriend Rob Goodwin to leave their estate. But he says he refused. Barrisone called 911 four times, asked for assistance, and told local police that he was “fearing for our lives”. But the police may have seen it as nothing more than a landlord-tenant dispute.
Tensions at Hawthorne Hill reached a boiling point on August 7, 2019. Michael Barrisone took a gun from the safe in his office and drove his truck down the long gravel driveway to the farmhouse where Kanarek and Goodwin were staying.
What happened next is unclear, but at 2:13 p.m., Lauren Kanarek managed to call 911 while two gunshot wounds were bleeding profusely. During the phone call, Rob Goodwin can be heard wrestling and subduing Michael Barrisone. When police arrived, they found Goodwin on top of a badly beaten barrisone. The 9mm handgun was from Barrisone’s hand. Lauren was lying on her back in a critical condition. He was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. The next day Barrisone was charged with two counts of attempted murder. He was facing 80 years in prison.
He was jailed for more than two years until the spring of 2022, when his trial finally began. The sensational trial lasted about three weeks.
Lauren Kanarek is asked during her testimony if she plans to destroy Michael Barrisone. Kanarek replied, “At some point, yes.” She was quick to make sure the jury understood she was suffering—after spending weeks in a hospital, in the ICU, she had a tube down her throat.
Michael Barrisone told “48 Hours” that he remembers entering his office, but does not remember holding a gun or shooting Kanarek. The defense team hired mental health experts to bolster their claims that Barrisone was in fact temporarily insane. “It drove him crazy. He gaslighted him and he pushed him over the edge,” Dr. Steven Simmering told Batiste in his interview with “48 Hours.” The psychiatrist told the jury that Barrisone developed a delusional disorder through Kanarek’s targeted use of social media, among other incidents prior to the shooting.
The state’s expert psychologist, Dr. Louis Schlesinger, disagreed with Dr. Simring. During his testimony, Dr. Schlesinger said that Barrisone’s ability to remember everything except grabbing a gun, driving to the farmhouse, and shooting Kanarek is a “red flag”. He doubts Barrisone’s story and does not believe he was insane.
The jury deliberated for four days. They came back with a dramatic verdict: Michael Barrisone was “not guilty by reason of insanity.” He was not criminally responsible for his actions at Hawthorne Hill that afternoon. Having overcome the emotions, Barrisone collapses crying in the arms of his lawyer. His defense team was pleased to call it “justice”. After a few weeks, Barrisone was transferred to a psychiatric facility.
Lauren Kanarek’s father, Jonathan Kanarek, believes the jury got it all wrong and that Barrisone should spend “the rest of his life” in prison. He said Lauren was “shocked and disappointed” by the decision. Lauren has not given up on her efforts to hold Barrisone accountable and has hired a civil attorney to prosecute Barrisone on her behalf.
At a hearing on September 7, 2022, a judge ordered Barrisone to be transferred to the less-restricted Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital for mental health treatment, with a follow-up hearing in six months to examine her progress. After years of surgery and treatment, Lauren Kanarek is back to riding horses.