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Monday, December 3, 2007

‘You're not worth the spit on the sidewalk.’ Victims speak at Baker’s sentencing: For nine counts he gets ten years of which he'll serve two

By Kay Ebeling

Ex-priest Michael Baker did not seem like a guilty man facing a just penance as he sauntered out of court Monday afternoon. Several victims at his sentencing observed he looked more like a guy leaving a business meeting, a successful one. Baker shook hands “so long” with his attorneys and left court with a lilt in his gait. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for oral copulation of two boys under age 18, but at a press conference after the hearing, Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman, calculated the amount of time Baker will actually serve.

“If he, in a sense, keeps his nose clean in prison, he will be entitled to 50 percent credits, that's good time and work time credits,” said Hodgman, who is head of target crimes in LA County.

“It appears the amount he will serve will be like a couple more years,” Hodgman said.

Baker gets 717 days served and work time, totaling 1075 days credit. Baker looked well fed and rested from his stay in LA county jail.

DA Michael Beart informed the slouching former priest that he’d have to register as a sex offender five days after release.

Baker’s face revealed he was already scheming what he’ll do when he gets out.

The former priest predator kept a little pout on his mouth, and as the hearing progressed the left side of his lips drooped into a half frown. His eyes were half lidded eyes, he was only half there, as several crime victims came forward to make impact statements, revealing how much he cared.

Baker appearance was crisp. He was fresh coiffed, with a trimmed beard, making him look like a college professor, even in his orange jumpsuit. Quite a change from last time he was in court almost one year ago, when his hair was long and shaggy, silver and grey blending in with a scraggly months growth of beard.

He’d glare out from the prisoners’ security bin with a scowl, eyes blazing like a madman.

Today Baker looked like a sedated TV preacher with plans for a quick comeback after prison.

Before the victims could speak, Donald Steier, main defense attorney for pedophile priests in LA, jumped up to say, “We are not waiving any finding of unconstitutionality in the future,” which made even the judge go quizzical and respond with, why are you saying that now? We can't even consider that here.

Why did Steier feel he needed to specify some future challenge of Baker’s conviction?

Then the victim impact statements began, read more after this.

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(A quick transcript of victim impact statements from Baker’s sentencing hearing will be at http://cityofangels7.blogspot.com/ by tomorrow morning.)

“In 1976 when Michael Stephen Baker entered my life I was nine years old,” said Matt Severson, first Baker victim to speak. “He paid a lot of attention to me and the other young boys, tickling us. His tickling felt different to me, but I didn't want to say anything.”

Baker held Matt and his mother “in his grip” a good nine years. Then Matt, a senior in high school, was able to break away.

“I was still under the impression it was all my fault,” Severson said. “Father Mike was sending me checks in the mail which made me still feel complicit and guilty.”

“If a criminal case had been pursued by all of us he’d be in prison the rest of his life,” said Severson. “Now as a 60 year old priest, going to prison for a few years will not be good.”

“This is a day I’ll never forget,” Matt Severson said in closing.

Mary Grant then spoke “on behalf of survivors of Baker and part of a support group we all belong to.”

Almost tentatively Grant thanked "the DA's office for pursuing these charges," and added "But lives won’t be repaired, they won’t get their childhoods back.

"10 years is not enough."

Grant said, “At this point, with you being sentenced, the five and a half years these victims went through didn't have to happen. It didn't have to happen.”

Then Vicki Martin got up to speak for David D, a Baker victim, who couldn't be in court that day:

“Father Baker is a monster,” Martin said staring Baker in the face. The convicted pedophile stayed in one position, with his half-lidded frown, and stared back.

Martin said, “Baker posed himself as a man of god and his intentions were evil. He robbed so many children of innocence -- and David D wants the court to know this fact.

“Baker forced David into a motel room and sodomized him while pushing David D’s face into the pillows to muffle his screams.

“David wanted to scream at Baker now in court,” Vicki Martin stated to Baker’s face.

Baker barely blinked.

She went on: “People are told to forgive, but forgiveness is a cheap grace when the person to be pardoned is not sorry.”

“He’s only sorry he got caught, Martin said and Baker stared straight back at her.

Next speaker was a child, and photographers were ordered to stop taking pictures. The daughter of victim Dominic Zamora came forward.

As she approached the mike her eyes and mouth twisted in anger, like an adult woman who’d battled years of trauma, startling to see on her 12-year-old face.

“YOU HAVE RUINED not only my life but my father’s life and there’s no way that we'll ever forgive you. You have caused my father to be in a gang, do drugs, and become an alcoholic. We will never forgive you.” Dominic stood behind her and walked her back to her seat.

Flames came out of Dominic’s mother Virginia Zamora's mouth as she spoke next:

“Baker, I have no words to call you father or priest. You took an oath and you knew right from wrong better than we did.”

Virginia Zamora's voice filled the room.

“You know who I am,” she said in a slow melody. “I am your worst nightmare. I sentence you to live in prison.

“Do you remember me?” She grinned and snarled at him. “Yes you do. You remember me.” She nodded. “I give you life.”

Baker's other attorney Leonard Levine was blocking my view of the defendant.

“You think because you wore a costume that you were immune, no. And that's all it was a costume.

“You made the children suffer, you took my life away,” Virginia Zomora continued.

“You're not even worth the spit on the sidewalk and you think because you go in there and grin that nobody will touch you?

“I’m sorry mister, you know where you're going after here, you're going right to hell with Satan. You and the rest of your pact. May god have mercy on your soul.”

I had to practically lie down in my seat to see Michael Baker hiding behind Levine. The former Father Mike, didn't blink.

Then Frank Zamora, Dominic’s father, spoke in a calm, even voice:

“Why did you ruin so many lives? There are so many marriages you broke up and you destroyed so many kids, especially the ones that committed suicide.

“Here I have a picture of you holding my son.

“I have a picture here of you in my home.

“Because we invited you.

“Because we trusted you.

“We thought the safest place for our children would be in the church.

“My son now only has 10 percent of his liver. We don’t know if he’s going to live until next year. He’s living day-to-day and it’s all because of you.”

With shaking self control, Frank Zamora stared straight at Baker and said, “You made my son lose his faith and as it says in the Bible it’s better you put a milestone around your neck.

At this point Baker actually looked scared, he just gave a glimmer of fear.

Then he turned to confer with his lawyer Donald Steier and the expression on the ex-priest's face was “Why do I have to go through this?”

James Brown, a friend of Mike, another of Baker’s victims, then spoke:

“As I was growing up with Mike I noticed he was having a lot of social problems. I’m a paramedic now and I always knew Mike had a drive to help people but he had a problem.

“There was something he was hiding. He got into drugs, and it affected his friendships. Twenty years passed and he finally started to talk about what had happened. He started to fix himself. He’s getting help.”

“This is the first time I’ve met this man Baker,” Brown said. He stared at Baker: “You're going to have to meet your maker.”

The look on Baker’s face said, yeah, I’ll go to confession before I die, take care of that, no problem.

Aside from the left side of his mouth drooping lower into a frown (the right side of his mouth staying in an emotion-free line), Baker’s expression was mostly mute, blank, reflecting little but for a glint in the eye (I may never write for mainstream media but thank God as I’d never be able to say in the Times what I say here.)

Baker’s white bushy eyebrows jutted down towards the center of his face in a look of concern and anguish he probably practiced in front of a mirror for hours.

Baker held the same slouchy position throughout the hearing, being, in my observation, about as sincere as he probably was when he was hearing confessions from some of his victims when they were children, in the 1980s and 90s all over LA.

Roger Mahony transfered Baker 18 times in the convicted preist's career, with several months-long stays for Baker at Servants of the Paraclete, before he was finally defrocked.

The judge closed the sentencing hearing said, "This is a compromise but considering the pain and suffering that would have come with the trial, we've saved the victims future anguish.”


What Hodgman had to say about Mahony in a post coming shortly.

(A quick transcript of victims impact statements from Baker’s sentencing hearing will be at http://cityofangels7.blogspot.com/ by tomorrow morning.)

Have a cosmic experience, an ethereal renewal. Click the PayPal button at the top of the left hand column to subscribe to City of Angels Blog 21st Century Style. Send any amount of money you want to my PayPal account for “Readership” to keep the blog and the blog’s producer alive. Also every time you click on a Google ad I make something like 2 cents.

1 comment:

Jay said...

Can anyone say RICO?

Once again we find the Church acting more like the Mafia than the Mafia itself.

I know I was being groomed for the priesthood as I was being groomed for other things, and at the same time, and by the same means. And while I was being abused by a priest, I was told it was all just part of the job.

I think he was right for once, damn him.