Monday, September 29, 2008

Deputy Craig Baker - CSC Dismissed - Benzie SD

Also See:

Deputy Craig Baker charged with CSC [April 01, 2008]

Judge dismisses charge against sergeant
September 29, 2008
The Record-Eagle

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
The Record Eagle
Fri Apr 16, 2010, 07:55 AM EDT

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."

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