|Keith Baker (far left), from the Facebook page
of his wife, Sandra Sargent Baker
Did Baker have a sexual relationship with the courtroom deputy in the Siegelman trial, as he did with court reporter Mallory Johnson (nee McCutchin) in the bingo case? Did Baker also have an affair with a juror in the Siegelman case? With how many women from the courtroom did Baker carry on affairs during perhaps the two most high-profile federal prosecutions in modern Alabama history?
The answers to all three questions are not clear. But it does seem clear that Baker is quite the active fellow when it comes to women and courtrooms--and rumors about his activities were so rampant that Myron Thompson, judge in the bingo case, vowed to investigate.
We don't know what Thompson ultimately found out, but he clearly considered the Baker/McCutchin affair a serious matter in the bingo case. And Thompson wanted to know more about Baker's possible dalliances in the Siegelman case. Does that mean the Siegelman convictions could be due for a review, based on widespread speculation about Baker's misconduct--of some variety--during the trial? That remains to be seen, but our inspection of the unsealed documents indicates Thompson was deeply concerned about Baker's apparent history of putting his sexual appetite ahead of justice matters while in court.
The Montgomery Advertiser, in breaking the story about the Baker/court reporter affair in the bingo case, reported that the FBI agent also had an "inappropriate relationship with a female courtroom deputy" during the Siegelman trial. We took that to mean a sexual relationship, in our reporting on Monday, but review of the documents indicates that was not explicitly stated in closed-door meetings between Thompson, defense lawyers, and prosecutors. It appears, however, that Baker engaged in some sort of misconduct with the deputy--and it likely was sexual in nature. Participants in the private bingo-trial discussions also were aware of rumors about a possible affair between Baker and a juror during the Siegelman case, but they appeared to reach no definitive conclusions about that.
How did Baker's behavior in the Siegelman case become a hot topic during the bingo-trial discussions? It started with comments from attorney Jim Parkman, representing former State Sen. Harri Anne Smith (I-Slocomb). Parkman started rolling with a mix of homespun humor and serious inquiry. From the transcripts:
MR. PARKMAN: My question for Mr. Baker goes into what is his mindset during the time of this investigation. Is he thinking about sweet thing over here, or is he thinking about this case? And these text messages are not important to try, as far as I'm concerned, necessarily with regard to having an affair. We know that happened.
But my question goes towards is it happening during hours that he's working? Is it happening during hours that he's involved in the investigation? Or is it happening during times that he's sitting in a truck listening to telephone calls out there, and he's text messaging sweet thing over there at the time he's supposed to be listening to the case? So that's number one.
With that, Parkman dives headlong into Siegelman territory, drawing immediate reaction from Judge Thompson and other defense lawyers:
MR. PARKMAN: Number two is, and I hate to say this, but I'm going to say it because nobody else has. Mr. Baker's actions were brought up again in another case, in the [Siegelman] case. Now let me tell you what that tells me.
THE COURT: Were you all aware of that?
MS. [SUSAN] JAMES: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay. I mean, I feel like if his actions in the [Siegelman] case, they are of concern to me from what I have heard, but what I've heard is hearsay, which I will reveal to you, just as, you know, judges talking. But if it's true, it is of deep concern.
If he, and I'm going to say it because I've heard it, if he was e-mailing Judge Fuller's court reporter during that proceeding, are you aware of that, that he may have been e-mailing her? If that's true, your concerns have serious merit.
MR. PARKMAN: Thank you, sir. Mine is a little different. I appreciate you letting me talk.
THE COURT: I don't know if that's true or not, but that's something that I, in light of what's happened today, definitely want to look into.
Louis Franklin joins the conversation, correcting Thompson on the female courtroom figure in question. Franklin took over the Siegelman prosecution after the supposed recusal of U.S. Attorney Leura Canary:
MR. FRANKLIN: Two issues, Judge. It was his courtroom deputy.
THE COURT: It was his courtroom deputy, yes. Are you aware of that?
MR. FRANKLIN: I am aware of that.
THE COURT: Okay. Then you know -- I heard it as hearsay, I did not hear it as fact, but in light of what has happened here, it's something we definitely -
MR. FRANKLIN: Right, but there are two issues, Judge. I want to make sure they don't get confused because the lawyers in this room, what they have talked about is that there were e-mails or messages sent between Agent Baker and a juror. I want to make sure the Court understands -
THE COURT: I really don't know the details, but what I want to do is, Mr. Franklin, I want you to sit down with the lawyers here, get those spelled out, get your facts straight, because I don't want to deal in hearsay other than to say there's something I think we need to look at. But I do think that aside from the issue of the affair, an agent having an affair with an officer of the Court, like my court reporter, is a very serious matter.
MR. FRANKLIN: And, Judge, I don't -
THE COURT: Let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish.
It is a very serious matter, and it does compromise, no matter whether anything was exchanged about the case at all. It does compromise the proceedings, at least in appearance, and can compromise it in substance.
|Keith Baker (right), from the Facebook page
of his wife, Sandra Sargent Baker
MR. FRANKLIN: I just want to make sure the Court understands two things. The information that you asked me about, I'm not really sure, I think there were -- I'm not sure there were text messages or phone calls between Agent Baker and the courtroom deputy -
THE COURT: Or a juror or something?
MR. FRANKLIN: No.
THE COURT: Not a juror.
MR. FRANKLIN: Two issues, Judge. One is that allegation. I was aware of that because I did get a note from Judge Fuller advising me of that, and it was put to bed. I don't know what information or the substance was in any of those communications.
But the other issue, Judge -
THE COURT: What other issue?
MR. FRANKLIN: There were two issues. The other one is there was some contact with a juror during the [Siegelman] case, and that has been brought up by at least one lawyer on the other side before. That matter was investigated. That matter proved to be an absolute rumor and not true.
THE COURT: The allegation that Baker and a juror -
MR. FRANKLIN: Yes, that some juror thought he was cute. That the investigation that was done by somebody other than anybody in our office or the F. B. I., revealed that was a rumor that was started by the jury administrator in this courthouse. She has admitted it.
I just wanted the Court to know that because they have painted such a bad picture of Agent Baker. Just to make sure that they don't get mixed up.
How is Franklin's credibility on the Baker/Langer rumors? Well, the transcripts show Franklin knew about the Baker/McCutchin affair for at least 11 days before telling Justin V. Shur, his Department of Justice superior on the bingo case. Even then, the prosecution tried to permanently hide the issue from the court and defense attorneys, via a motion in limine seeking to make questions about extramarital affairs off limits to all government witnesses.
The Baker/McCutchin affair only came to light when attorneys for VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor refused to agree to the government's proposed limitations on questioning.
So what was the extent of Keith Baker's amorous activities during the Siegelman case? We do not know for sure, at this time. But we do know that Louis Franklin likely is not a dependable source of information on the subject.