By Diane Madigan
Independent Court Reporter
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mark T. Slavens has sentenced Brian Baker, 17, of Van Buren Township to up to 22 years in Jackson Prison.
During his July 25 sentencing Baker stood next to his attorney James McGinnis as his Presentence Report was reviewed.
This is where the Independent heard that Baker had been out on probation as a juvenile from Washtenaw County for four home invasions when he committed five more in VBT’s Haggerty Subdivision from Feb. 19 to April 12 this year.
Although these prior crimes put him in a higher category for sentencing, Judge Slavens said he would abide by the sentencing recommendations of the plea agreement.
Sentencing and restitution followed.
• On the Feb. 19 case at 10991 Buchanan for pleading guilty as charged to 2nd Degree Home Invasion, Baker got 2-15 years at Michigan Department of Corrections plus restitution of a $500 insurance deductible paid to Michelle Solak.
• On the March 15 case at 10637 Jackson, for pleading guilty as charged to 1st Degree Home Invasion, stealing from a person and stealing property and stealing a firearm, Baker got 2 years for a felony firearms conviction followed by 2-20 years for home invasion. Restitution was not requested but the prosecutor left it open for possible restitution of insurance deductible and time off from work.
• The March 25 case at 11130 Van Buren was dismissed in the plea agreement. Restitution had not been requested. The prosecutor reserved restitution until she could contact the homeowner.
• On the April 5 case at 10914 Buchanan, Baker was sentenced to 2 years for felony firearms followed by 2-20 years for home invasion. Additional charges of larceny of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, stealing firearms, receiving and concealing firearms were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
The prosecutor said the victims asked for $8,907 in restitution, but Baker’s attorney did not agree with that figure and requested a restitution hearing be scheduled.
• The April 12 case at 41408 Coolidge for 2nd Degree Home Invasion case was dismissed in the plea agreement and restitution had not been requested.
Besides restitution, Baker has court costs and fees totaling $1,564 and has 92 days of jail credit.
Just prior to sentencing, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Russo said one of the victims, James Laine, said it best. He hopes he (Baker) learns his lesson and asked someone tell the kid’s father to talk to him.
“My heart is broken for the father,” Laine is quoted as saying.
Baker’s attorney McGinnis said his client is 17 years old and has committed a lot of crimes. He said we have to find a way to place the blame and he had to be shaped by his background.
McGinnis said Baker lost his mother two years ago after she became ill when he was 11.
“I don’t think we can ask a kid to shoulder all the blame and all the responsibility,” McGinnis said. “We need a sentence that can reshape him and do him some good. Sending him to Jackson won’t do this. In some ways he’s been victimized as well as the victims of the crimes.”
Prosecutor Russo said she had been a prosecutor in juvenile court for years. She said by having nine victims at the age of 17, he sent himself here and it’s up to himself to turn it around.
“You don’t get to leave nine victims in your wake. I feel bad, but he had a chance with the juvenile system. At 17 you know what is going on.”
Baker had nothing to say in his defense when asked by Judge Slavens.
There were no victims in the courtroom.
Judge Slavens said he felt bad that Baker was 17 years old, but that he had his chance as a juvenile.
Slavens said, “I completely disagree with Mr. McGinnis. I’m sorry you lost your mother. You had a chance with the juvenile system. I do see a benefit to keeping you in prison for public safety.”
Judge Slavens asked Baker to turn around and look at his grandmother. Baker turned slightly and Slavens asked, “What do you see?” Baker said softly, “I see love and I see pain” and turned back to face Judge Slavens.
“No, turn and look in her eyes,” Judge Slavens directed.
“I don’t want to,” Baker said.
“You have to look at her so you remember this,” Judge Slavens said, asking Baker if she deserves this?
“No,” he replied softly.
“Your father doesn’t deserve this and the public doesn’t deserve this,” Judge Slavens said.
Baker and his grandmother started to cry and others in the courtroom got choked-up.
Baker’s grandmother had been at all the hearings. His father was in the courtroom for sentencing, but had to leave for work.
VBT Detective Derek Perez was in charge of the investigation and took Baker’s statement. Lt. Charles Bazzy conducted the search of Baker’s residence where he found a firearm hidden in his father’s bedroom.
A VBT crime map reviewed by the Independent showed Haggerty Subdivision had 11 burglaries from January through April 2012, including repeat breakings & enterings at two of the same residences. From January 2013 through April 12, 2013, there were seven B&Es with forced entry, and one without.
After Baker’s arrest on April 12, there was just one home invasion, without forced entry, from April 13 through July 25.
By Diane Madigan