Commonwealth Journal

June 29, 2013

Despite pleas, man convicted on child porn charges gets 20 years

By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — A father’s statement that his son, convicted of child pornography charges, would never hurt a child did little to deter a local judge from handing down a two-decade prison sentence during a hearing last week.

Defendant James E. Baker, 41, of Nancy, appeared before Pulaski Circuit Judge David A. Tapp and was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison.

Baker pleaded guilty earlier this year to four counts of distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor and four counts of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor.

James Baker’s father, Estill Baker, Jr., appeared in court to support his son and asked that Tapp grant James Baker probation for the full 20 years.

“My son has never been in any trouble, he’s never caused me no trouble,” said Estill Baker. “He’d never hurt a child or an old person … I know my son is no risk, no risk whatsoever.”

Estill Baker also presented Tapp with a petition signed by people supporting James Baker.

James Baker’s attorney, Kenton Lanham, also asked that Tapp consider probation, stating that he did well during his pretrial release under restrictions handed down by the court that included not accessing any electronics (computers, cell phones, etc.).

Baker was initially charged on December 12, 2012 with 10 counts of distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor and 50 counts of possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor.

Those charges stemmed from a September 2012 investigation carried out by Kentucky State Police that revealed a computer in Pulaski County contained child exploitation files that were available for file sharing.

KSP followed up with a search warrant on James Baker’s residence in Nancy, and a search of James Baker’s computer uncovered 50 files of child pornography. KSP interviewed James Baker, who admitted to downloading and possessing images and videos relating to sexual images of children of varying ages.

Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy F. Montgomery objected to the probation request during Thursday’s hearing.

“Judge, I would ask you impose the full 20 years,” said Montgomery. “In fact, it disturbs me that they bring somebody up here to try to downplay to you what he did, what he admitted to doing.

“There’s 50-something images on his computer,” Montgomery continued. “It’s not an accidental thing.”

Tapp, in his address to James Baker, took issue with what he said was an attempt to present the charges as less serious.

“This is not a passive crime,” Tapp said. “This is not ‘I accidentally logged on and something popped up on a computer. … Make no mistake, that is not what this case is about, and to pretend otherwise is dishonest.

“It is dishonest when you allow people close to you such as your family to believe that’s what’s going on,” Tapp continued. “That’s not right. It’s just wrong to portray this case as something like that. This is a case in which you actively … downloaded graphic images of children performing sex.”

Tapp read aloud descriptions of several of the images found on James Baker’s computer. Tapp stated that one image portrayed a girl, 7 to 9 years old, performing oral sex on an adult male in the act of ejaculating.

A second image showed a child, 3 to 5 years old, performing oral sex on an adult male, and a third image portrayed a child, 6 to 8 years old, performing oral sex on a dog.

“This is not some little ‘oh I accidentally downloaded this stuff on my computer and it just popped up,’” Tapp said during the hearing. “This is the worst type of child pornography.”

Tapp also raised concerns about Estill Baker’s statement that his son would not hurt a child.

“Every time one of these files is copied, every time it is passed along to somebody else, there is an additional harm to that child, because that matter is going out all over the computers, all over the world for people to see these innocence children subjected to horrible, horrible sexual crimes against them,” said Tapp. “ … There is harm to every one of those children every time. … It is not intellectually honest to say ‘I would never harm a child.’”

Tapp stated he appreciated that James Baker had support from his family and friends, but stated he could not grant probation.

“I’ve looked at your record and it’s a very minor record, but this case illustrates the type of closet industry that child pornography really is,” Tapp said, adding that the harm done to children portrayed in child pornography will “follow them forever.”

Tapp handed down the recommended 20-year sentence. James Baker, upon release from prison, will be registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life as well.

“You need to serve your time for this,” Tapp said.