Baker suffers serious stroke

Harry Baker, 87, suffered a ischemic stroke March 10, in the Fresno County jail, where he has been held since Sept. 24, awaiting trial for one count of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a female minor.

According to his attorney, Roger Nuttall, Baker suffered the stroke in the right side of his brain causing extensive damage to the left side of his body. Although Baker is in stable condition and breathing on his own in a Fresno hospital, he can not talk. Baker is responsive to voice commands and can nod his head yes or no when spoken to. He also can not swallow and is being nourished through a feeding tube.

On Thursday, March 19, Nuttall filed a ‘status memorandum’ with the Fresno County Superior Court describing his client’s condition, and expects his request for a temporary suspension of court proceedings to be granted.

Nuttall said Baker’s long-term status is uncertain.

“I don’t know what the prognosis truly is for recovery but he’s in no position to go anywhere,” Nuttall said. “My impression is he will be receiving hospital care and rehabilitation for a long time.”

Baker has been in the county jail since Sept. 24, when Fresno Superior Court Judge Jonathan 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 court, Nuttall has contended that Baker suffers from dementia and other ailments that prevent him from assisting his attorney.

In December, a jury found Baker competent to stand trial on the felony molestation charge. The jury reached its decision after psychologists Allan Hedberg and Paula Willis testified that Baker was not competent to stand trial while board certified forensic psychiatrist Dr. Howard Terrell and psychologist Harold Seymour said that he is competent.

On March 4, Superior Court Judge Jonathan Conklin asked Terrell to examine Baker. A hearing on Terrell’s findings was scheduled for March 30 in Fresno County Superior Court. A hearing that will now most likely be prolonged.

“I am convinced that the proceedings will be suspended,” Nuttall said.

Baker, president of Sierra Telephone and former Madera County supervisor, was arrested Oct. 5, 2009, for an incident that allegedly occurred in a Fresno hotel room in May, 2007.

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 maintained his innocence since his arrest, stating he was the victim of a blackmail-extortion scheme. Baker has stated he paid a total of $250,000 to family members to keep the tape from being released to the public, and called the family a “band of gypsies.”

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

If convicted Baker faces up to eight years in prison.