Baker sentenced to two years

By John Estridge, Editor

Raymond B. Baker was sentenced to two years in prison after he was found guilty of two counts of Neglect of a dependent.

Baker was found guilty of the two counts after a two-day trial beginning on Feb. 13. A six-member jury found him not guilty of 36 counts of Criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon. All 38 counts were class D felonies.

According to court documents and testimony at the trial, Franklin County Prosecutor Mel Wilhelm accused Baker of playing chicken with a fully loaded school bus on Johnson Fork Road Feb. 12, 2012, as the bus was on its way to Mt. Carmel School.

The jury found him not guilty of doing that, but found him guilty of endangering his two daughters who were riding with him in his red 2008 Chevy Trailblazer.

A school bus, operated by Cindy Blanton, went to the Baker home in the morning of Feb. 12, 2012, and stopped at the Baker home. The two Baker girls were not out of their house, and after a short wait, the bus moved to the next house.

Apparently, Baker believed his daughters were outside when the bus stopped, and the bus just proceeded on without his children. Evidence from Baker's security camera and the bus camera proved this was not the case.

Baker, who said he had not had much sleep the night before as he had been up with his invalid mother most of the previous night, at first told his daughters they would have to stay home from school. However, the oldest daughter said she had an algebra test at Franklin County High School that day and had to go to school. Baker then took them in his Trailblazer to either catch the bus or to Mt. Carmel School.

At some point, Baker was almost at Mt. Carmel School while on Johnson Fork Road but turned around. He and his daughters said he then waited for the bus at the intersection of Johnson Fork and Sharptown roads, while others said Baker drove at the bus, forcing it off the road.

Once the bus was stopped, Baker's daughters exited their vehicle with Baker going around to the back of his vehicle. Baker said he was stopped at the intersection flagging the bus down from the back of his vehicle. Blanton said Baker drove in the northbound lane, forcing her to stop in the southbound lane. Thus, they were both on the wrong sides of the road. After the bus stopped, Baker went to the back of his vehicle. He said he was already at the back of his vehicle flagging down the bus before it stopped.

With the Baker girls at the bus door, Blanton told them and Baker she could not pick up riders on the road. All three Bakers got back in the vehicle. According to the bus video, Baker's daughters were still getting their doors closed when Baker took off.

In sentencing hearings, the judge weighs aggravating and mitigating factors. The sentencing range for a class D felony is six months to three years in prison. If aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors, the more toward the three years a person receives. Thus, if mitigating factors are greater than the aggravators, a person receives a sentence more toward the six-month figure.

Wilhelm argued the aggravating factors.

He told Kellerman the aggravating factors included: Baker's criminal history, the nature and circumstances of the offense, the age of the victims, the crime was committed in the presence of other children, the defendant violated a position of trust and Baker showed a lack of remorse for the crime.

Baker's attorney, Brian Newcomb of Franklin, argued the mitigating factors. They included: undue hardship to Baker and his dependants by his incarceration, the unlikeliness Baker would commit another crime and Baker showed remorse.

In his ruling, Kellerman said the scale was weighted toward the aggravating factors.

He said the factors included: Baker's criminal history, the likeliness he would commit another crime, the nature and circumstances of the crime, the clear lack of remorse shown by Baker, the crime was committed in the presence of other children and Baker violated a position of trust, being the girls' father.

Baker was sentenced to two years in prison with six months suspended to probation. He was given credit for 28 days served, the time between the end of the jury trial and the sentencing hearing. He was fined $250 and $166 costs. He was ordered to pay $380 in probation fees. He was given the same sentence for the other count, to be served concurrent, which means at the same time.

With time off for good behavior, Baker should be out of prison in seven or eight months.