Baker trial scheduled for March 12

After nearly six years of delays, former Madera County Supervisor and Sierra Tel president Harry Baker, 87, will stand trial for allegedly molesting a 13-year-old girl in a Fresno motel in 2007.

According to the Fresno Bee, Judge Jonathan Conklin informed all parties that the case has dragged on long enough (Baker was charged with a felony in 2009), setting a criminal trial date of March 12. Both the prosecuting attorney, Becky Gong, and Baker’s defense attorney, Roger Nuttall, stated they would be busy with other criminal cases at that time, but Conklin informed both attorneys to clear their calendars, that “this case should trump other cases.”

In response, Nuttall has filed two motions - one, asking for a new trial to determine if Baker is competent to stand trial; and should that motion be denied, he wants the jury’s verdict that Baker was competent overturned. Nuttall contends that Baker suffers from dementia and other ailments that prevent his client from assisting him.

Since Baker’s arrest in October 2009, his trial has been delayed multiple times due to health issues, including open-heart surgery and a tracheotomy.

Baker has been in the county jail since Sept. 24, when Conklin sent him there for missing two court dates and not keeping court-ordered appointments with two psychologists to determine his competency to stand trial. In December, a Fresno County Superior Court jury found Baker competent.

After his arrest, Baker said he was not guilty, that he was the victim of a blackmail and extortion plan after the then-13-year-old victim secretly videotaped him in a Fresno hotel, and tricked him into touching her.

Baker has stated he paid $250,000 to family members to keep the tape from being released to the public, and his attorney has called the family a “band of gypsies.”

Baker knew the girl’s parents, Tillie Steve and Michael Frank. Early in the case, Steve and Frank were being investigated for child exploitation, child pornography, and extortion, but charges were never filed.

If convicted on the lewd acts charge, Baker could spend up to eight years in prison.