Judge denies St. Paul’s sexual assault suspect’s request to quash statements to police

  • Former St. Paul’s School student Ben Baker arrives for his arraignment and bail hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court on Friday, April 5, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Former St. Paul’s School student Ben Baker confers with his lawyer after his arraignment and bail hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court in April. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 9/29/2019 7:16:33 PM

A Virginia man questioned by Concord detectives about a pending sexual assault investigation dating back to his time at St. Paul’s School was free to leave during the interview and under no obligation to provide a statement, a judge ruled.

For that reason, Benjamin Baker’s request to suppress statements he made to detectives in August 2018 was denied. That means his several-minutes exchange with police in the lobby of his apartment complex in Falls Church, Va., can be entered into evidence for jurors to consider during his upcoming trial, which is slated for January in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord.

Judge Richard McNamara wrote in a recent order that two Concord police detectives and a Virginia detective present for the interview specifically informed Baker that he was not under arrest and, therefore, free to leave at any time. McNamara sided with county prosecutors in finding that the circumstances did not warrant officers to read Baker his Miranda rights.

“That the defendant understood the officers is illustrated by the fact that after approximately 15 minutes he did terminate the encounter, and got up and left – as a reasonable person who did not believe he was in custody would do,” McNamara wrote.

Further, the interview took place in the lobby of Baker’s apartment complex, a place that is well known to him and a place he chose, McNamara wrote. The officers had suggested to Baker that they all speak in a more private location, but Baker insisted on meeting in the public lobby.

Roughly six months after that August 2018 interview, Virginia authorities arrested Baker on a fugitive from justice charge with the goal of returning him to New Hampshire, where police had filed multiple felony sexual assault charges against him. Police said two brothers came forward to report that they were sexually assaulted by Baker at St. Paul’s School, both when he was a student and in the years proceeding his graduation in 1974.

Baker, 63, now faces one count each of aggravated felonious sexual assault and five counts of felonious sexual assault. Five other felony charges initially filed against Baker were dismissed after a hearing Aug. 19 because the alleged crimes took place before the applicable statute took effect in late 1973.

Concord detectives began their investigation of Baker in summer 2017. St. Paul’s administrators filed a report with the Concord Police Department at that time after learning of the allegations from one of the victims and his father, who was previously employed by the Concord prep school. Both of the boys were entrusted in Baker’s care for years and lived on campus with their parents.

Under New Hampshire law, children who are sexually assaulted by an adult can pursue criminal charges until age 40. But the clock stopped running in this case because Baker left the Granite State for Virginia, meaning there was still an opportunity for police to investigate and file charges.

Baker, who was incarcerated following his late-February arrest, posted bail in April. He remains out of jail on bail conditions pending his trial in Concord.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or at adandrea@cmonitor.com.)

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