MANSFIELD — Richland County Common Pleas Court Judge James Henson overruled a defense motion Friday to suppress evidence against a Lexington man charged with molesting four boys.
The judge’s decision came at the end of a more than hour-long hearing in the case of 57-year-old William Baker.
He is charged with a single count of rape, 11 counts of sexual battery, 18 counts of gross sexual imposition, 10 counts of importuning, five counts of sexual imposition and four counts of contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child. Authorities say Baker inappropriately touched and had sexual conduct over a course of years with four male minor victims, including one who was 10 years old when the relationship began. Baker allegedly bought the boys alcohol before he took advantage.
Defense attorneys Jaceda Blazef and Paul Mancino asked that statements Baker made during an initial interview Nov. 15, 2011, be suppressed. They argued there was no written record of Baker being read his Miranda rights or waiving them.
During Friday’s hearing, Sgt. James Sweat and Deputy Brad Henderson of the sheriff’s office testified that Henderson read Baker his rights shortly after they began talking with him in the courtyard of Snow Trails ski area, where he worked.
The two said Baker was read his rights a second time when he voluntarily went to the sheriff’s office to continue the interview.
They said he was read his Miranda rights a third time when he voluntarily went to the county jail, after it was determined the audio and video recording system at the sheriff’s office was not working.
In all instances, they said, Baker was advised he was not under arrest and could stop talking and leave at any time.
Sweat testified he saw a recorder in Henderson’s shirt pocket when Henderson put away his Miranda script card. Henderson told the court that he thought he had turned on the recorder just before the three went outside the Snow Trails main lodge, but saw it was not working when he put the card away.
Under cross examination, Blazef asked Henderson why he did not inform Baker he was making an audio recording of the initial conversation.
“I didn’t know I was required to do that,” Henderson replied.
Henderson also admitted there was nothing in his supplemental investigative report to indicate Baker was read his rights or waived them. Henderson testified that Baker was given a sheet of paper with Miranda rights on it and was asked if he understood each section, but was not asked to sign it. Henderson and Sweat said a recording of the jail interview shows Baker acknowledging he was read his rights several times but does not include the actual reading.
Prosecutors were ready to play a copy of the recording, but both sides agreed it was not necessary. Henson admitted the recording to the court record.
The only defense witness was Robert Glorioso, customer relations manager at Snow Trails, who said he watched the initial courtyard conversation between the deputies and Baker, but did not see Henderson remove or put back the Miranda card. He also noted under cross examination that he did not hear any of the conversation and went back to work after a few minutes.
Glorioso said he later asked Sweat why they were talking to Baker. Sweat told him, “You’ll read about it in the paper.”
Following testimony, Mancino argued that while Baker was given his Miranda rights, there was no evidence Baker waived them before talking to the officers. Henson pointed out that Baker continued to talk with the officers each time they said he was read his rights.
“There’s no question in the court’s mind that on at least two occasions, maybe three, he was advised of his rights and voluntarily waived those rights and gave statements,” Henson said.
Blazef said she was disappointed with the ruling. Mancino said while he did not agree, “The judge made the ruling and we have to accept it.”
News Journal correspondent