Joshua Baker, the Halfway man who had served two years of a mandatory mimimum prison term of almost 19 years for sexually abusing a girl, was released Wednesday after his 2018 conviction was overturned due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision banning nonunanimous jury verdicts.
Baker was convicted in Baker County Circuit Court in February 2018 by a 10-2 verdict.
The Supreme Court ruled this April that such convictions are unconstitutional, and on May 22 the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed Baker’s conviction.
He was taken from the Snake River Correctional Institution near Ontario to the Baker County Jail on May 28 to await a potential retrial.
But on Wednesday Baker, 43, in a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office, pleaded guilty to the charge of attempting to commit the Class B felony of first-degree sexual abuse. In pleading to that charge, he was convicted of a Class C felony.
Judge Lung Hung of Malheur County, as stipulated by the agreement, sentenced Baker to five years’ probation.
In a press release, District Attorney Greg Baxter said:
"In April 2020, the United States Supreme Court required that all criminal jury verdicts be unanimous. The case of State v. Baker, Baker County Case # 17CR08783 was impacted by this decision. In February 2018, the jury convicted Mr. Baker by a 10-2 verdict of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree.
Upon learning that the case was reversed for the reasons above, the District Attorney’s Office reached out to the victim, victim’s representatives, and witnesses. The fact the events occurred five years ago, the fading of memories, rulings by the Oregon Court of Appeals affecting the evidence that could be offered, and, most of all, the trauma to the victim and witnesses in a retrial were all considered in deciding to retry the case or not.
The victim and the District Attorney agreed that the best resolution to ensure the safety of the victim and the witnesses, was to guarantee a conviction obtained through a plea that required sex offender treatment, lifetime registration as a sex offender, and a no contact with the victim and several witnesses. The plea agreement achieved those goals."
Special conditions of Baker’s probation require him to have no contact with his victim or her siblings. And he was ordered to pay all counseling, therapy treatment or medical costs related to the offense.
Also during his five-year probation term, Baker must enroll in and successfully complete an approved sex offender treatment program and have no contact with children under the age of 18. The conviction also requires lifetime sex offender registration.
See more in Saturday’s issue of the Baker City Herald.