Baker arrested in Merced last month

The Fresno BeeJuly 9, 2013 

Former Madera County Supervisor Harry Baker was arrested last month in Merced for shooting a gun inside a hotel room, Merced police confirmed.

It's the second case involving Baker, police and a hotel room. He's been embroiled since 2009 fighting a charge of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor stemming from an alleged 2007 incident in a Fresno hotel room with a 13-year-old girl.

The most recent case is under investigation by the Merced city attorney's office and the Merced County District Attorney to determine whether charges get filed. The alleged offense is a misdemeanor.

Baker, 85, who is president of Sierra Telephone Co. in Oakhurst, was not jailed in Merced, Lt. Tom Trinidad said, because of his medical condition.

Baker's ailing heart caused several delays in his Fresno legal proceedings. Two summers ago, he underwent open-heart surgery and received an artificial aortic valve, according to his attorney at the time.

At another Fresno hearing in March 2012, he showed up with two black eyes, stitches on his forehead and a bruised mouth — injuries he said he suffered in a mugging.

He was last in court on June 13.

Baker kept a low profile until June 18, when Merced police say he was at the Travelodge Motel on Yosemite Parkway, just east of Highway 99. Gunshots were reported there about 9:30 p.m.

Trinidad described what police know: When officers arrived at the motel, they found a hole in the wall of a room and two guns. Baker was stopped about a half-mile away. He told police the gun discharged accidentally.

Police could not say why Baker was in the motel, but he had been accompanied by a younger man earlier in the day, Trinidad said. Other witnesses said they saw a woman go in and out of the room.

Baker had been drinking alcoholic beverages, but did not appear to be under the influence when he was arrested. He was released when the younger man promised to drive Baker home, Trinidad said.

Baker's lawyer, Roger Nuttall, said his client was showing some of his guns to a man and a woman who were in the room with him.

"He was kind of humiliated that it accidentally discharged," Nuttall said Wednesday.

Nuttall said Baker told him that the hotel has been paid for the damage and that he has heard nothing from Merced police or the district attorney's office.

Nuttall began representing Baker this spring after Baker's first attorney, Richard Berman, retired.

Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse said this week that his office has the police report, but there's no timetable for deciding whether charges will be filed.

One possible strike against Baker: He does not have a concealed weapons permit, the Madera County Sheriff's Department confirmed. That's the agency that Baker would have to go through as a resident of the county.

The Merced incident adds to Baker's legal worries. He contends he's the victim of a Gypsy blackmail scheme in the Fresno hotel room incident. His next Fresno court date is Aug. 1.

According to Baker's lawyers, he was alone in his Fresno hotel in May 2007 and dressed in a bathrobe when the 13-year-old girl and another woman showed up nude. Baker was videotaped fondling the girl, according to a Fresno County Superior Court affidavit for Baker's arrest.

The affidavit said Baker told authorities that he subsequently paid $250,000 to the girl's family as part of a blackmail scheme.

According to the police affidavit, Baker paid for two rooms at the Residence Inn from May 12 to May 14, 2007. Before going to the hotel, the girl's family had purchased a sophisticated clock with a hidden video camera. They later set up the camera device in Baker's motel room without his knowledge.

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