Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Deputy Craig Baker - Benzie SD




Judge dismisses charge against sergeant
September 29, 2008
By ART BUKOWSKI
The Record-Eagle
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:S-ryu338tGcJ:record-eagle.com/local/x75060936/Judge-dismisses-charge-against-sergeant/print+&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

BEULAH -- A fired Benzie County corrections sergeant might try to get his job back after a judge dismissed a criminal sex charge against him.

Benzie Circuit Judge James Batzer on Friday dismissed a single count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct against Craig Baker. Baker was suspended in April and later fired after allegations surfaced that he sexually assaulted a teen girl.

But the alleged victim said she lied about the incident in a signed affidavit, court filings show. Batzer granted a motion, made by defense attorney Brett Naumcheff, to dismiss the case based on lack of evidence.

The Benzie sheriff's department asked Michigan State Police for an investigation after hearing Baker allegedly assaulted the girl, then 14, at his residence during the winter of 2005. State police arrested Baker in April, and he was immediately suspended. A week later he was fired.

Baker was fired based on statements he made to state police and sheriff's administrators, Undersheriff Rory Heckman said.

Baker, 37, worked for the department since 1997. He couldn't be reached for comment, and Naumcheff didn't return calls for comment.

The department will defend its firing of Baker if he files a grievance seeking re-employment, despite Batzer's decision, Heckman said.

"We're convinced something still occurred," he said.

The sheriff's department expects Baker will try to get his job back, Heckman said.

Police Officers Association of Michigan representative Pat Spidell had yet to speak with Baker and wasn't sure if the union will work to get the job back, he said.

"We've got to review the court case and some other issues in our office before we make a determination," he said.











Benzie deputy suspended amid CSC charges
Court bailiff accused of sexually assaulting woman
By ALEX PIAZZA
The Record Eagle
Fri Apr 16, 2010, 07:55 AM EDT
http://record-eagle.com/friday/x2074892830/Benzie-deputy-suspended-amid-CSC-charges/print

BEULAH -- Benzie Sheriff Rory Heckman suspended one of his deputies without pay after police said he twice sexually assaulted a woman.

Authorities this week charged Richard "Rick" Lee Zych, 52, of Honor, with two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. The high-court misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to two years in prison and/or $500.

He "engaged in non-consensual sexual contact" with a woman "by using force and coercion" on two occasions last year, court records show. The woman was an acquaintance, but they weren't in a relationship, Heckman said.

Zych, a court bailiff who's worked for the department since 1997, was suspended on Wednesday without pay or benefits. His arraignment is scheduled for April 22 in 85th District Court.

A union representing Zych filed a grievance on Thursday, contending the sheriff's department wrongfully suspended him without pay.

"He obviously hasn't been afforded his due process rights to defend himself," said Pat Spidell, a Police Officers Association of Michigan representative.

Heckman said he'll respond to the grievance soon.

The sheriff's department in December suspended Zych with pay pending a Michigan State Police investigation. Zych was required to call the department twice a day while on paid suspension, but because Heckman on Wednesday stripped him of his pay and benefits, he no longer has to check in. He did not return a call for comment.

Zych is the most recent Benzie County sheriff's deputy charged with sexual assault.

The sheriff's department two years ago fired Craig Baker, a corrections sergeant, after allegations surfaced that he sexually assaulted a girl, then 14, in 2005. A judge dismissed the case because the alleged victim said she lied about the incident, but Heckman refused to reinstate Baker.

At least two other Benzie officers this decade were convicted on sexual assault charges.

Heckman said the department must continue to conduct thorough background checks to ensure similar incidents don't occur. The sheriff's department requires its deputies, both for corrections and road patrol, to undergo a psychological examination before they're hired.

"Those weren't always done in the past," Heckman said. "It's a necessary piece of the puzzle.

The more eyes you have looking at it, it's going to help you."













Arbitrator upholds officer's firing
He was dismissed after allegation of sexual assault
BY ART BUKOWSKI
The Record Eagle
Tue Nov 03, 2009, 08:25 AM EST
http://record-eagle.com/benzie/x546324367/Arbitrator-upholds-officers-firing

BEULAH -- An arbitrator upheld the firing of a Benzie County corrections officer accused -- but not convicted -- of sexually assaulting a teen girl.

Craig Baker, 38, tried to get his job back with the Benzie Sheriff's Department after a judge in September 2008 dismissed a single count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. Baker, who worked for the department since 1997, was fired in April 2008, shortly after the allegations surfaced.

The sheriff's department asked Michigan State Police for an investigation after hearing Baker allegedly molested a girl, then 14, at his residence during winter 2005.

He was arrested and charged, but Benzie Circuit Judge James Batzer eventually dismissed the case because the alleged victim said she lied about the incident, court filings show.

Arbitrator Mario Chiesa said in his ruling that testimony collected for arbitration proceedings suggests Baker likely did improperly touch the girl, regardless of what she told police.

"The evidence presented at this hearing convinces me that the grievant did, indeed, have inappropriate sexual contact ... the court's dismissal of the charges does not influence or change this conclusion," Chiesa wrote.

Benzie Sheriff Rory Heckman is happy with the arbitrator's decision. He refused to reinstate Baker after Batzer's decision, citing his belief that something inappropriate occurred.

"I think it's important for our community to know that the sheriff's office is doing the right things, and that we're not tolerating any type of inappropriate ... conduct," he said.

Baker declined comment, and his attorney didn't immediately return a call for comment. Baker's union representative couldn't be reached for comment.














Charge against sergeant dismissed
News In Review: October 2008
The Record Eagle
http://record-eagle.com/2008inreview/x75066488/News-In-Review-October-2008

BEULAH --A fired Benzie County corrections sergeant might try to get his job back after a judge dismissed a criminal sex charge against him.

Benzie Circuit Judge James Batzer on Sept. 26 dismissed a single count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct against Craig Baker. Baker was suspended in April and later fired after allegations surfaced that he sexually assaulted a teen girl.

But the alleged victim said she lied about the incident in a signed affidavit, court filings show. Batzer granted a motion, made by defense attorney Brett Naumcheff, to dismiss the case based on lack of evidence.

The Benzie sheriff's department asked Michigan State Police for an investigation after hearing Baker allegedly assaulted the girl, then 14, at his residence during the winter of 2005.

State police arrested Baker in April, and he was immediately suspended. A week later he was fired.









Corrections sergeant faces investigation
News In Review: April 2008
Record-Eagle
http://record-eagle.com/friday/x2074892830/Benzie-deputy-suspended-amid-CSC-charges


Beulah -- A corrections sergeant with the Benzie County Sheriff’s Department has been suspended pending a criminal sexual conduct investigation.

Craig Baker is on administrative leave without pay, according to a release from Benzie Undersheriff Rory Heckman. The incident did not occur while Baker was on duty and did not occur at the Benzie County Jail.

Heckman did not immediately return a call for comment. There are no charges filed against Baker in Benzie County District Court, a spokeswoman said.







 Michigan Officer Involved Domestic Violence

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