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Court to Decide if Convicted Priest Goes Free or to State Hospital

Whittier Daily News September 25, 2011 — After serving just one-third of his 10-year, 4-month sentence, ex-priest Michael Stephen Baker may go free or may face additional time in a state hospital, depending on a court’s decision this fall. Since 1970, Baker has been accused in 23 cases of child molestation, but due to expired statute of limitations, he was only sentenced for one in 2007.

Baker, who is now 63-years-old, was paroled on August 23, 2011 from the California Correctional Institute and could have gone free. Instead, he is headed back to court after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed a request on August 26 for Baker to be transferred to a sex offender program at the state hospital in Coalinga. The DA requested the move because the DA believes he may be a danger to the public and could commit his crimes again.

The DA’s motion is part of something called a “civil commitment.” Part of the criteria of a civil commitment requires two psychologists to report the person will likely commit the crime again. It is unclear even to the DA’s office if Baker received these two reports, as they are not public record.

The case that sent Baker to prison involved two boys, aged between 14 and 18, who he molested between 1994 and 1997. He met one of the victims when he was a priest at St. Hilary in Pico Rivera. He met the second while he was at St. Columbkille in Los Angeles.

The Pico Rivera boy settled with Baker and the Los Angeles Archdiocese for $1.25 million in 2000.

In 2007, Baker pleaded guilty to 12 felony counts of oral copulation on a minor. He was sentenced to 10 years and four months in prison. But he was given a credit for 1,075 days for time he served in county jail and for good time work credit. In state prison, Baked received credit for two days for every one day served.

But the case that sent Baker to jail reflects only a tiny fraction of the total number of victims allegedly molested by Father Mike, as he was known back then. Baker has been accused of molesting up to 23 children, dating as far back as 1974 and ending in 1999.

In 1986, Baker admitted to Archbishop Roger Mahony that he had a relationship with two boys for seven years, the archdiocese says. He was sent to treatment in New Mexico in 1987, but was reassigned to a new parish just one year later — where he molested again.

“Mahony knew Baker had a problem and he shuffled him around,” said Virginia Zamora, the mother of one of Baker’s victims. Her son, Dominic, was allegedly molested by Baker while he served as an altar boy at St. Paul of the Cross in La Mirada.

Said the Los Angeles archdiocese in a statement:

“As Michael Baker’s future is again the focus of court proceedings, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles recalls the terrible harm he inflicted upon his many victims. Mr. Baker repeatedly lied to his superiors, therapists and friends, and manipulated treatment protocols in order to continue to prey upon young people.”

Other charges have been filed against Baker, but due to statuses of limitations, the cases had to be dismissed.

In 2003, Matthew Severson alleged Baker molested him at St. Hilary, St. Paul of the Cross in La Mirada and at a condominium in Palm Desert. Severson said the abuse started when he was 8 in 1975 and continued until he was 19 in 1986.

The Supreme Court ruled that the state cannot retroactively erase statuses of limitations, so the case was dismissed.

There have been other cases brought against other priests that were also dismissed due to the same reason.

Because he wasn’t released on August 23, Baker was transferred to a Los Angeles County jail. The ex-priest is currently at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, where he is being held without bail. Baker returns to court in Los Angeles on October 7th for a media request and on November 9th for arraignment and motions.

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