Baker previously served 10 years for multiple lewd acts on a minor
■ By Mary Ann Morris / Editor
Hemet resident Robert Francis Baker, 69, a convicted sex offender who tried to snatch a 12-year-old girl from a Temecula street almost one year ago, was sentenced Friday, Aug. 11, to 60 years to life in state prison. His defense? He was just asking for directions to the dentist.
Baker was convicted in April – after only one day of deliberations – of attempted kidnapping, attempted lewd acts on a child, annoyance of a child by a registered sex offender and two counts of being in possession of child pornography.
Although Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michael Donner imposed the required terms for each count, he used discretion and suspended sentencing on three counts. Otherwise, Baker’s total sentence would have been 135 years to life, according to court minutes.
And while Baker acted as his own attorney during the almost two-week trial, he requested a public defender during his Aug. 11 sentencing hearing.
Baker was arrested in August 2016 after he was allegedly caught in the act of harassing the 12-year-old girl, who was referred to as “J.M.” in court documents.
Following a preliminary hearing at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dennis McConaghy found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial for Baker on the attempted kidnapping count, as well as annoying a child and two counts of possessing child pornography.
McConaghy had a post-preliminary hearing arraignment on Dec. 27, 2016, where Baker’s bail remained set at $1.5 million, and he was held at the Southwest Detention Center.
According to sheriff’s officials, on the afternoon of Aug. 12, 2016, District Attorney’s Office Investigator Ron McGowan was driving through the area of Pauba Road and Linfield Way when he noticed a motorist – later identified as Baker – accosting the victim as she walked along the sidewalk.
Baker allegedly followed the girl, trying to persuade her to get into his car, including flashing a wad of cash, investigators said.
“This young girl told the defendant ‘no’ over and over again when he asked to give her a ride,” Deputy District Attorney Edward Jensen told jurors. “Yet, Mr. Baker continued to roll alongside her, refusing to take no for an answer.”
Baker claimed that he became disoriented when trying to locate a Temecula dentist on Pauba Road for a $6,000 procedure when he encountered J.M. and thought it was a good idea to ask her for directions.
He admitted asking the victim twice whether she wanted a ride, even though she told him “no” the first time. Baker also acknowledged flashing cash at her, but said that he was simply trying to pull out his driver’s license to put the girl at ease, and the money and card were bound together by a rubber band.
McGowan came to the child’s aid and determined that the child did not know Baker, so McGowan ordered Baker out of the vehicle and detained him until other deputies arrived.
Based on the girl’s statements, what McGowan witnessed, and the fact that Baker was a registered sex offender, he was arrested at the scene. Sheriff’s deputies took over the investigation, during which they found multiple vibrators, condoms and lubricants in Baker’s rental car, according to Jensen, who also said that a search of the defendant’s Hemet home netted several laptops loaded with child pornography.
According to court records, Baker was convicted in San Diego County in 1994 for child molestation. After serving a decade in prison, Baker said he “went out of his way” to avoid run-ins with the law.
Baker, a former charter boat captain and convicted felon, wept while testifying, telling jurors that he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his freedom and risk not being able to care for his now-98-year-old mother.
Baker said he was “two seconds” from pulling away from the curb when he was stopped by McGowan.