One step back in former supervisor's molestation case

FRESNO, Calif.

The charges were filed two years ago, but 83-year-old Harry Baker has only made two court appearances in that time. The process was supposed to move forward this week, but instead it took a step backwards.

Baker's attorney tried to keep Thursday's hearing from ever happening. Then, without telling anyone at the court, Baker scheduled an open heart surgery for Thursday. When doctors postponed it, Baker showed up in court, but he won a new delay because of his health problems.

The walker that helped the 83-year-old shuffle into the Fresno County courthouse was visible. But you couldn't see the pacemaker that keeps his heart going, or the tracheotomy tube that helps him breathe.

Baker stands accused of fondling a 13-year-old girl in a Fresno hotel room. The encounter was caught on videotape, but Baker's attorney claims the girl set him up.

"She and an adult gypsy woman planned to plant a recorder and get him in a position," said Rick Berman. "There was no fondling."

Berman says his client paid the girl's family $250,000 in blackmail money, then told police what had happened.

Federal authorities are investigating the girl's parents for extortion and child pornography, but they've never been charged. Baker was, in 2009, but because of his health he's only been in court twice.

In his second appearance Thursday, prosecutors would've publicly presented the evidence against him for the first time. But his attorney got a note from a doctor saying Baker needs open heart surgery and he might die if he's forced to sit through a court hearing. Judge Kent Hamlin agreed and gave Berman the delay he wanted, despite previous statements that he wanted to fight the case in court.

An Action News reporter challenged Berman: "You told me before you want to prove your client innocent and now you have him in court, you have the chance, and you turned it down. You turned down the chance."

"I didn't turn down anything," Berman responded. "I want to prove him innocent and I'm going to prove him innocent, but I want him to be alive when we do that."

Baker's case comes up again in three weeks, but he won't be in court for that hearing. His attorney doesn't expect him to be healthy enough to sit through a hearing for four to six months.

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