Jury finds Bernardston man not guilty on rape charge

  • On the stand, defendant Aaron Michael Baker listens to Assistant District Attorney Sandra Staub during his trial in Franklin County Superior Court on Oct. 24, as Judge Michael K. Callan and members of the jury listen. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 10/28/2019 10:33:35 PM

GREENFIELD — The Bernardston man accused of performing non-consensual oral sex on a male eight years ago was found not guilty on one count of rape on Monday.

Aaron Michael Baker, 30, was on trial in Franklin County Superior Court facing three counts of rape and one count of indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or over from two alleged incidents involving different people six years apart. The court separated the 2011 rape charge from the three charges stemming from 2017. Baker is set to face the 2017 charges in court in January.

Neither attorney Isaac Mass, representing Baker, nor the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, prosecuting the case, had a comment for the Greenfield Recorder about the verdict.

According to court documents, the alleged victim told then-Greenfield Police Sgt. Mark Williams he remembered waking up to Baker performing oral sex on him in Greenfield hours after the two had been socializing at a Hatfield bar the night of Sept. 10, 2011. Williams is now deputy chief in Greenfield.

Baker took the stand Oct. 23 to give his version of the story. Mass asked him about his history with the Old Deerfield Fire District (where he came to know the alleged victim) and about details of the day of the reported assault. Baker spoke of the joking and “firefighter talk” prior to the night in question and took the 14 jurors through the events as he said they transpired. Baker said he and the alleged victim had drinks after being at the fire station all day, but that they stopped at Baker’s home first so he could shower, describing himself as being “wet, and gross with chemicals” from having washed fire trucks during the day.

Baker said he had sent a text inviting other people to join for a night out, though no one met up with them. He said he and the alleged victim decided to go to a bar in Hatfield and Baker drove them both in his truck. Baker mentioned he and the other man entered the establishment and sat at the bar, with one stool between them. Baker said a bartender commented on them arriving together but not sitting together, resulting in the victim sitting next to Baker, asking “Is this better?” and hugging Baker while telling the bartender Baker was “a sexy man.”

Baker said he and the alleged victim each had three to four drinks. He said the other man never had any issue walking, sitting down, standing up, lighting cigarettes or operating a cellphone, and never appeared glassy-eyed. Baker said later in the night the alleged victim wanted to continue hanging out and they decided to go to Baker’s place of employment on the French King Highway in Greenfield to sober up before the victim went home to his wife. Baker said he showed the man his all-terrain vehicle and his racing trophies, and then the two stood there for a few minutes and “didn’t have anything else to say.”

Baker said the two hugged for a minute or two and the alleged victim kept his right arm over Baker’s shoulder and started rubbing the back of Baker’s neck in a way he described as “soft” and “gentle.” Baker said as they sat there, he started to rub the alleged victim’s groin and this led to him performing oral sex for four to five seconds. He said he stopped because he began to second-guess himself and he heard the victim’s stomach gurgling, indicated he was about to vomit, which he did. Baker said he cleaned up the mess, aired out the building and the alleged victim asked to be brought back to his truck at Baker’s home. Baker said the man never said no and never asked to go to the police.

Baker said the alleged victim repeatedly apologized for vomiting, removed a sweatshirt he had borrowed from Baker, urinated behind a dumpster and gave Baker “a big bear hug” before going home. Baker said he has not seen the alleged victim since. He said the actions were consensual, but he regrets them because “we were friends and I put him in a position to cheat.”

Baker also recalled playful banter between himself and the alleged victim prior to the night in question. He mentioned the two watched movies on a laptop in the fire station’s upstairs meeting room while on downtime during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Baker said the alleged victim at one point dimmed the lights, prompting Baker to jokingly ask if the man was “setting the mood.” Baker said the alleged victim “kind of snickered and said, ‘Yes.’” On the stand, Baker said the two joked about cuddling and the alleged victim often engaged in “butt-smacking” and “thigh-touching.”

Assistant District Attorney Sandra Staub then addressed Baker on the stand and questioned him on inconsistencies between his court testimony and what he told police at the time. Staub told Baker he had told Sgt. Mark Williams the oral sex lasted two minutes. Baker said he did not recall that, but said the alleged victim was exposed for two minutes.

Baker said he has in the past seven years had time to reflect and recollect the events.

Staub mentioned Baker had told police the alleged victim is “fidgety and talks a lot,” though he said nothing during the oral sex. Staub also said Baker told Williams nothing about the alleged victim touching the back of his neck. Staub also questioned the logic of bringing the alleged victim to the French King Highway to get sober when there was no food or coffee there, unlike at Baker’s home.

According to court documents, the alleged victim told police he was “out of it” and thought he was entering his apartment when in fact the two were in Baker’s place of work. He said he thought the oral sex was being performed by his wife until he regained consciousness and realized it was Baker. The alleged victim told police he repeatedly tried to push Baker off him but he was not physically able to do so. He said he believes he may have been drugged, though Baker denies giving him any drugs.

Court documents state the alleged victim initially declined to press charges, but on April 11, 2018, he contacted Trooper William R. McMillan of the Massachusetts State Police to say he had changed his mind.

The charges stemming from an alleged 2017 incident were brought against Baker after an active-duty service member said Baker sexually assaulted him at Baker’s Bernardston residence.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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