The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
In 2019, Joseph “Jack” Baker, pastor of St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford, Michigan, was accused of sexually assaulting a child.
The Oakland Press reported at the time:
Father Joseph “Jack” Baker, 57, is on an electronic tether following his arraignment July 8 in 29th District Court, according to the Wayne County Jail website. Judge Laura Redmond Mack assigned a $500,000 personal bond at arraignment, which doesn’t require bail to be posted.
Baker, pastor of St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford since 2008, is one of six metro Detroit priests facing sexual abuse charges as part of an ongoing investigation by the state’s attorney general’s office. He was arrested July 8 in Wayne County and is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct – sexual penetration with a person under 13 years old, multiple variables. Court records list the offense date as Feb. 1, 2004.
Baker is also a former associate pastor at St. Hugo of the Hills Parish in Bloomfield Hills and Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn, and former pastor at St. Mary Parish in Wayne. He also was administrator at St. Benedict in Waterford in 2011, campus minister at Wayne State Medical School Campus Ministry and administrator at three churches in Inkster. He was ordained in 1993.
Attorney General Dana Nessel is calling the case “just the tip of the iceberg,” and said her office is reviewing “hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and files” seized last fall from Michigan’s seven diocese.
In October 2022, Baker was convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree with a child under the age of 13.
On March 1, 2023, Baker was sentenced to 3-15 years in prison. Afterward, he must register as a sex offender.
Joseph “Jack” Baker, 61, was convicted in October 2022 of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. This charge is used when the victim is under 13.
Baker will spend three to 15 years in prison and must register as a sex offender for life.
He had previously been a pastor at St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford since 2008. He also served as a pastor at St. Mary Parish in Wayne, as associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn and as an associate pastor at St. Hugo of the Hills in Bloomfield Hills.
At his sentencing hearing in Wayne County’s 3rd Judicial Circuit Court, Joseph “Father Jack” Baker was ordered to spend 3-15 years in prison, with jail credit of 140 days, for first-degree criminal sexual conduct-sexual penetration of a person less than 13 years old.
Baker was pastor at St. Mary Catholic School in Wayne and his victim was a second-grader there when he was raped in the church sacristy in 2004. Both the victim and Baker were among those who testified at the trial last October, with Baker denying the allegation.
The Oakland Press is not naming the victim due to the nature of the crime.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Bridget Hathaway veered from sentencing guidelines of a minimum 25 years in prison, calling Baker’s case “somewhat unique.”
Noting that the priest was convicted of “one of the most serious crimes in the state,” Hathaway cited several factors for the lighter sentence, including Baker having no other criminal allegations against him and no prior criminal history, compliance with bond conditions for more than three years while he awaited trial, and several dozen letters of support from parishioners and others who, she said, credited him with doing “a great deal of good for the community.”
Wednesday’s hearing, Kriger had asked the judge to sentence Baker to time served and “a period of probation or home confinement,” claiming he has a history of “dedication to service,” community involvement and helping others “in some of their darkest hours” — as evidenced by the letters written to the court on his behalf.
“This offense is 20 years old and is truly an aberration in Father Baker’s otherwise exemplary life…he has spent the last 20 years being the complete opposite of what he have seen in this case,” she said.
Russo Bennetts, however, argued that the “face (Baker) presented to the community and the face his victim saw” weren’t the same.
“This was not an aberration…he changed and destroyed (the victim’s) life,” Russo Bennetts said. “The people who wrote those letters weren’t sexually assaulted by Joseph Baker. The Joseph Baker in those letters in not the Joseph Baker (the victim) knows.”
Baker was given a lighter sentence because of all the “good” things he did as a pastor. Does anyone seriously think that this was the only time that Baker took advantage of a church minor? I mean, really? As has been shown in countless Black Collar Crime stories, judges often give offending clergy what I call the “preacher’s discount,” sentencing them to lighter sentences than non-clerics receive. Lost on judges is the fact that these men abused the trust their victims had in them, causing untold physical and psychological harm. They should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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