Man asks judge to dismiss statements to police in St. Paul’s sexual assault case

  • Former St. Paul’s student Ben Baker confers with his lawyer after his arraignment and bail hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court on Friday, April 5, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

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

Monitor staff
Published: 8/22/2019 5:46:07 PM
Modified: 8/22/2019 5:45:55 PM

A Virginia man accused of sexually assaulting two boys on the St. Paul’s School campus decades ago is asking a judge to throw out certain statements he made to police.

Benjamin Baker, 63, of Falls Church, Va., spoke to police in late August 2018 after two Concord police detectives and a Virginia detective went to his apartment building to question him about allegations dating back to the 1970s, when he was a student at St. Paul’s and in the years proceeding his graduation.

Defense attorney Christine List is arguing that detectives should have read Baker his Miranda Rights because, even though he was not under arrest at the time, he was followed by the officers through the apartment building and did not feel free to leave. County prosecutors have objected, saying a reading of Miranda warnings was unnecessary given the circumstances.

The issue is now before Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara who will rule on whether Baker’s statements will be admissible at trial, which is tentatively scheduled for December.

In the meantime, McNamara has dismissed five of the 11 charges filed earlier this year against Baker because the alleged crimes took place before the statute took effect in late 1973. As a result, Baker now faces one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault and five counts of felonious sexual assault.

Baker was arrested in February in Virginia on a fugitive from justice charge after Concord police issued a warrant for his arrest in the sexual assault case. He was extradited to New Hampshire days later and remained incarcerated until April 10, at which time he posted $2,500 cash and $2,500 surety bail. He remains free on bail conditions to include electronic monitoring.

Concord detectives began their investigation of Baker in summer 2017 when St. Paul’s administrators filed a report after learning of the allegations from one of the victims and his father.

Baker, a star wrestler during his time at St. Paul’s, is accused of sexually assaulting two brothers, both of whom were entrusted in Baker’s care for years and lived on campus with family. Baker graduated from the Concord prep school in 1974.

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 New Hampshire for Virginia, meaning there was still an opportunity for police to investigate and file charges.

Concord police detectives Julie Curtain, who has since retired from the force, and Nicole Murray joined a Fairfax County Police Department detective in Virginia to find Baker and speak with him about the case. They tried several times to reach Baker at his apartment and also went to his sister and mother’s residences in the same building. Only when Baker left his apartment and headed for the elevator did they finally make contact, according to court documents.

List wrote in her motion that the officers didn’t honor Baker’s “clear attempts to escape contact with them” and instead started introductions while following him into the elevator.

“Once off the elevator, Mr. Baker got off quickly and refused to stop. Detectives continued to follow him and engage in conversation while Mr. Baker kept walking. With the Detectives still in tow, Mr. Baker headed toward a sitting area. Finally giving in to their relentless stalking, Mr. Baker stopped,” List wrote.

Curtain told Baker he was not under arrest and free to leave but Baker replied by “mocking” her words and indicated he did not feel free to leave, according to List. She said Baker agreed to speak only because he interpreted from the officers’ actions that he would not otherwise be left alone.

Deputy Assistant County Attorney George Waldron stated in his objection to the defense’s motion to suppress that Baker appeared in the foyer near the elevator with a tape recorder, which he appeared to turn on. He said Baker chose to gather in the lobby entrance of the building, a very public place, even though officers suggested a private space.

“The defendant and the detectives had a brief discussion that lasted no more than 15 minutes about the allegations and the defendant got upset and left the group, heading back to the elevators,” Waldron wrote. “The officers did not pursue him or question him any further. As the defendant was not in custody when he made his statements, Miranda warnings were unnecessary, and because there is no evidence that his statements were involuntary, his motion should be denied.”

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



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