Former county supervisor facing eight years in prison
FRESNO (AP) — A former Madera County supervisor who claims he was a victim of a blackmail scheme by a roving band of gypsies will stand trial on charges he molested a 13-year-old who surreptitiously recorded the incident.
Harry Baker, 84, could face up to eight years in prison if convicted of committing a lewd act with a minor.
Baker’s attorney, Richard Berman, argued in a preliminary hearing on Wednesday that Baker never intended to molest the girl, and that she had asked him to check for a lump on her breast.
He said Baker was the victim of a blackmail scheme by the girl’s family. He had paid more than $250,000 to the blackmailers for copies of the video.
The alleged molestation took place in 2007. The threeday hearing had been delayed for three years as Baker suffered from heart problems.
Despite Judge M. Bruce Smith agreeing with Berman that Baker was the victim of a blackmail scheme allegedly perpetrated by the teen’s family, he found probable cause to proceed with a case about inappropriate touching.
The evidence came from the video, which Berman tried to exclude from evidence. In it, Baker is seen fondling and kissing the breast of the girl and an older cousin, prosecutor Becky Gong said.
Berman argued that Baker was set up by the girl and an older cousin, who planted a video camera in the man’s hotel room, then re-entered and asked him to check lumps on the girl’s breasts and near her vagina.
Baker knew the older cousin, said a federal agent who originally investigated the case. Mike Prado said that the cousin said that she and Baker were married in a gypsy wedding when she was 16. However, it was later determined she was an adult at the time. Authorities have not been able to locate her.
Prosecutors also called an 18-year-old who said that Baker promised to marry her in a gypsy wedding when she was 13. She said she woke up in a Las Vegas hotel room later that night with Baker fondling her. The case was investigated, but Berman never was charged.