Sex offender back in custody; GPS showed former priest near Catholic school

San Gabriel Valley Tribune/November 12, 2011

Less than a month after his release from a Los Angeles county jail, sex offender and former priest Michael Stephen Baker is behind bars again.

The 63-year-old is accused of violating his parole after a GPS device showed he was within 50 yards of St. Pius V Catholic school in Buena Park, according to state corrections officials.

Baker is on parole for molesting a boy he met at St. Hilary in Pico Rivera and a second boy at St. Columbkille in Los Angeles.

He took a deal and pleaded guilty on Dec. 3, 2007 to 12 felony counts of oral copulation on a person under 18.

Although sentenced to 10 years and four months, Baker served only a third of the sentence. He was given credit for time served while he was in county jail and prison and for what is called good time work credit.

Like other sex offenders on parole, Baker now wears a GPS device and cannot be within 100 yards of a school.

But a recent check of Baker's device revealed he came within 50 yards of St. Pius the V school, said Luis Patino, spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He didn't know when the former priest went near the school.

After being notified of the violation, Costa Mesa Police arrested Baker on the morning of Nov. 2 at the Ana Mesa Inn in Costa Mesa, Costa Mesa police Sgt. Phil Myers said. Baker was living at the motel on Harbor Boulevard.

Baker remains in the Intake Release Center in Santa Ana awaiting a hearing for the parole violation.

After serving his shortened sentence for the felony count, Baker was supposed to be released on parole on Aug. 23. Instead he ended up being taken to a Los Angeles County jail.

The LA County DA's Office wanted him put in a sex offender program at a state mental hospital and initially filed a request to do so with the court.

However, prosecutors asked the court on Sept. 30 to dismiss that request.

The 2007 plea bargain spared Baker a stay in the state mental hospital. The charges he pled to aren't sexually violent offenses.

So the ex-priest was released from a Los Angeles county jail at 3:37 p.m. on Oct. 3, according to sheriff's booking records.

He later surfaced in neighboring Orange County.

Patino of the CDCR didn't know how long Baker had been living at the Costa Mesa motel before he allegedly violated parole.

Baker is one of the more well-known cases of clergy abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

According to an archdiocese report, Baker had 23 accusers from incidents starting in 1974 - the year he was ordained a a pries - and ending in 1999.

Sheriff's detectives said the number of victims could be 28.

Church officials said that in 1986, Baker told then Archbishop Roger Mahony that he had a relationship with two boys for seven years. The Archdiocese sent him to New Mexico a year later for treatment.

Afterward, Baker was assigned to other parishes but had restrictions.

Yet Baker continued to prey on children.

Baker admitted that between 1994 and 1997 he molested the boys at St. Hilary and St. Columbkille, when they were between the ages of 14 and 18.

While it was this case that landed him a prison sentence, it wasn't the first criminal case filed against Baker.

In 2003, he was charged with molesting a former altar boy at St. Hilary, St. Paul of the Cross in La Mirada and at a condominium in Palm Desert. The alleged abuse started in 1975 and ended in 1986.

The Supreme Court ruling that the state cannot retroactively erase statutes of limitations led to the 2003 case being dismissed along with a dozen cases against other former priests.

In 2006, the DA's Office charged Baker with molesting John Doe 1 whom he met at St. Hilary and John Doe 2, the teen from the L.A. church.

Baker and the Archdiocese had settled with John Doe and his brother for $1.25 million in 2000.

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