Former LA Priest Pleads Not Guilty to Sex Abuse of Boy

The Associated Press, carried in Mercury News
February 14, 2006

LOS ANGELES - Michael Stephen Baker, who once wore the cassock of a Roman Catholic priest, was brought to court Tuesday in an orange jail jumpsuit to face child molestation charges.

A lawyer for the 58-year-old Baker entered his plea of not guilty and a preliminary hearing was set for March 16.

Baker only spoke when Superior Court Commissioner James Bianco asked if he agreed to the time delay.

"I do," he said.

Defense attorney Donald Steier said Baker would not immediately challenge his bail, which was set at $800,000.

The former priest was arrested last month when he returned from a trip to Asia.

Baker is charged with eight acts of oral copulation involving a boy during seven months in 1994 and 1995.

In 2003, prosecutors charged Baker with 34 counts of molestation on six victims, but those charges were dismissed because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld a statute of limitations on old sex abuse charges. Cases dating before 1988 were dismissed.

Authorities said in October they had reopened a case that involved two brothers who claimed Baker molested them between 1984 and 1999. The new charges involve one of those brothers.


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