The former manager of sweetFrog and youth minister at a Gordon County church was sentenced to serve eight years in prison and 17 years probation Tuesday afternoon following his guilty plea to three charges of sexual misconduct with a minor online.
Zachary Michael Baker, 29, of 601 College St., pleaded guilty to criminal attempt to commit aggravated child molestation, sexual exploitation of a child by use of a computer and obscene internet contact with a child.
Baker never physically made contact with the 14-year-old boy named “Aidan,” who was actually Capt. Ojilvia Lom with Floyd County police. He was arrested on Jones Bend Road where Baker was supposed to meet Aidan for oral sex.
Judge Jack Niedrach took five minutes to deliberate on Baker’s sentence after hearing from Floyd County Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson, defense attorney Chris Twyman, Baker’s mother, a childhood best friend and Baker himself.
Twyman told the court that Baker has been gainfully employed since he was released on bond in January and works two jobs to support his family. Baker has attended 16 weeks of group therapy and is a part of a men’s support group, Twyman said.
“He has moved forward to be productive,” he said.
Twyman petitioned the court for a lighter sentence since this was Baker’s first time coming before the court accused of a crime. Twyman asked the judge for a sentence less than five years since a child was not actually involved.
Baker thanked the judge for his January bond hearing and for granting him bond.
“As bad as this has been a lot of good has come out of it,” Baker said. Through his group therapy he said he learned about how to deal with trauma he experienced when he was younger.
“When you are weak or struggling with something, it’s never OK to keep that to yourself,” he said.
Baker told the court he had faced many consequences from his actions already, and asked to be sentenced only to probation and community service so he could be a part of the community.
The state’s case against Baker began with an ad he posted on Craigslist asking for other men to experiment with. This is when “Aidan” contacted him and stated he was a 14-year-old boy, Johnson said. According to the ADA Baker did not immediately ask for sex but instead slowly “groomed” him in order to have a relationship with him.
Correspondences between Baker and “Aidan” evolved from Baker acting as a mentor who warned “Aidan” that he was not safe on the website to making plans to see each other in public. According to the correspondences Baker asked “Aidan” if his mom could bring him by sweetFrog so they could see each other and Baker could make sure he wasn’t a member of law enforcement. The emails and texts from Baker became more and more explicit, said Johnson.
“This is the behavior of a predator,” she said.
The correspondences ended when Baker was arrested by Floyd County police on Jones Bend Road where he planned to meet “Aidan” to have a sexual encounter. Johnson said it was a good thing it was Floyd police who met him and not an actual 14-year-old boy.
Niedrach allowed for Baker to receive credit for his time already spent in jail prior to being released on bond. The judge did deny a request for Baker to be sentenced under the First Offender Act, which would have cleared his criminal record after he successfully completed his sentence. Once released from prison Baker will have to follow the regulations of a probationer and register as a sex offender.