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Ariens welder on stage during State of the State is registered sex offender

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - A worker who was recognized during Governor Scott Walker's State of the State speech is a registered sex offender who spent time in prison and violated probation twice.  

32-year-old Christopher Barber of Two Rivers wore his welding helmet on stage Wednesday night, when the Republican governor showed him off as an example of how, "Wisconsin is going back to work."  

It was the kind of thing all governors do in their State of the State messages, to praise those who've done Wisconsin and their administrations proud.  

But Thursday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Barber served three years in prison for a plea deal in 2005 in which he was convicted of third-degree sexual assault while two drug charges were dropped.  

Barber has also been convicted of misdemeanor battery, and he spent a year in jail for felony forgery. He was convicted of drunk driving three times.

Barber took a seasonal job in late 2012 as a welder at the Ariens riding mower and snowblower plant in Brillion. He later grew into a full-time position.

The governor's office said it asked employers around the state to recommend workers who were hired since Walker took office in 2011.

Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice said neither Walker's office nor Ariens knew the details of his criminal record. Had the governor's office known, spokesman Tom Evenson said Barber never would have been invited.

Ariens' spokeswoman Ann Stilt said the firm is now conducting an internal review of his hiring.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)