Baker Should Be Resentenced, Appeal Judges Rule

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An appeals court affirmed most of the case against a Belpre man serving a 20-year prison sentence for his role in the attack of an 83-year-old woman but also ordered the trial court to re-sentence him on part of the case.

Brandon Baker, 21, of Belpre, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to the January 2012 attack of Ota Vincent in Coolville. He was charged with three counts of aggravated robbery, two counts aggravated burglary, two counts of felonious assault, two counts of kidnapping, one count abduction, tampering with evidence, theft and attempted murder.

But Baker argued in his appeal that a lack of effective counsel and an unfair sentence in proportion with his role in the crime were contrary to the law. The consecutive sentences that Baker received as part of his guilty plea were also against the law, Baker's appeal attorney argued.

But Baker and his attorney were "unable to specify facts supporting their claim of a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship of such magnitude as to jeopardize Baker's right to effective assistance of counsel," the appeals court ruled.

Baker was one of four men who pleaded guilty, including Christopher Fleming, Cody Stout and Colin Stout. Baker and Colin Stout went inside the home, beating and robbing the woman while the other two men stood outside.

Colin Stout, considered the perpetrator of the attack, took a plea deal from the Athens County Prosecutor's Office and received a sentence of 15 years in prison. While Baker was offered the same amount in a deal, he and his attorney, Eric Hedrick, did not respond to the deal, nor did they give a counteroffer before receiving a deadline to respond by the prosecution.

Eventually, Hedrick told the prosecution they would not be accepting the deal and after the deadline for the 15-year deal elapsed, a new deal of 19 years was brokered. Judge Michael Ward considered the deal and decided to sentence Baker to 20 years in prison.

The panel of appeals judges said Ward was not acting contrary to the law when he sentenced Baker to more time than was received by the main perpetrator in the attack.

"Baker's claims lack merit, however, because (the Ohio Revised Code) does not require that co-defendants receive equal sentences; moreover, it is not clear that Baker truly was less culpable than Stout," wrote Judge William Harsha.

But in regards to consecutive sentences being given on each of the counts that Baker received, the judges believed the trial court "did not make the findings required" by the state statute.

Although the court was "justified" in imposing a 20-year sentence, Baker was successful in establishing that the trial court did not follow the law when imposing consecutive sentences.

Because part of the case was not affirmed, the appeals court reversed the judgment of the trial court.

A re-sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 3 in Athens County Common Pleas Court, according to court documents filed this week.