March 05–The criminal trial of former Madera County Supervisor Harry Baker has been delayed once again after his attorney called into question Baker’s competency to assist in his defense to a child-molestation charge stemming from incident at a Fresno motel eight years ago.
Superior Court Judge Jonathan Conklin has asked Dr. Howard Terrell, a board certified forensic psychiatrist, to examine Baker, who has been in the Fresno County Jail since September for missing or being late to several court hearings.
A hearing on Terrell’s findings will be held March 30 in Fresno County Superior Court.
Baker, 87, is charged with one felony count of molesting a 13-year-old girl in 2007. He has pleaded not guilty, saying he was a victim of an extortion plan by the girl’s family. He contends the then-13-year-old girl secretly videotaped him in a Fresno motel and tricked him into touching her.
Baker has told authorities that he paid $250,000 to the girl’s relatives to keep the tape from being released to the public.
Since his arrest in 2009, Baker’s trial has been delayed multiple times due to health issues, including open-heart surgery and a tracheotomy.
He was scheduled to stand trial March 12, but on Monday defense attorney Roger Nuttall called into question Baker’s competency, prompting Conklin to suspend criminal proceedings.
In court, Nuttall has contended that Baker suffers from dementia and other ailments that prevent him from assisting his attorney.
This was the second time within a year that Nuttall has called into question Baker’s competency.
In December last year, 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 Terrell and psychologist Harold Seymour said that he is competent.
If convicted of committing a lewd act with a minor, Baker could spend up to eight years in prison.
By Pablo Lopez / The Fresno Bee
Note: Baker has bee in the Fresno 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.