Boston Globe

Saturday, December 18, 1999

Tape questions snarl rape case

By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff, 12/18/1999

Call it a strange tale of an apparently faked tape.

In February, James E. Baker, a married 31-year-old auto mechanic from Stoughton, was arrested for allegedly breaking into his former girlfriend's Easton home with three other men - including his father-in-law - and raping her.

Though he made bail, Baker found himself behind bars again when the victim told authorities he'd been calling her - and gave them a cassette tape to prove it.

When Baker made bail a second time, the victim presented another tape, alleging he'd broken the court's restraining order. It happened again when Baker made bail for the third time.

But the unusual case took another turn when an analysis of one of the tapes determined that it was a composite, created from previous conversations between the two.

On Thursday, Baker was released from the Bristol County House of Correction on his own recognizance, 32 days after the last time his bail was revoked. In all, he has spent more than 100 days in jail for contacting the victim after his arrest, calls his attorney said Baker never made.

''The question remains: How long will this alleged victim be allowed to abuse the system before she herself is incarcerated?'' said the attorney, Robert A. George.

''Not only has she ruined the defendant's life as well as his family's, but she has caused him to spend the better part of the last six months in jail as the result of false and manufactured allegations,'' George said. ''She should pay for her crimes.''

But the Bristol district attorney's office has agreed only that the last tape was fake - and insists it will prosecute the rape case.

''There's no debate among the office as to whether we should proceed,'' said prosecutor Renee Dupuis. ''But this is definitely a jury issue to determine who is credible and who is not credible.''

The victim, whose identity is being withheld under Globe guidelines, said yesterday that she has been open and honest with investigators and has done nothing wrong. She added that she has asked the state attorney general's office to investigate the actions of some of the detectives on her case.

The alleged incident happened Feb. 20 in Easton, according to authorities. The victim told police that four men broke into her home at 2:15 a.m., blinded her with a flashlight, tied her hands and that one of them raped her.

She said the men then blindfolded her, bound her in tape, placed her in the back of Baker's pickup truck and drove her to a Stoughton auto repair shop, where she was raped again. After the attacks, she said, the men drove her back to her home, drugged her and left. She called police the next day.

Two days after the alleged attack, Baker was in custody, charged with a series of felonies: armed assault, aggravated rape, kidnapping, and home invasion. He was released on $75,000 bail a day after his arraignment.

Three months later, police arrested Baker's father-in-law, Arthur ''Buzzy'' Weir, 53, after the victim heard his voice at a Little League baseball game and recognized it as one of the intruders, according to Weir's attorney, Josh Werner. Weir, who was not charged in the rape, made bail, which was set at $50,000.

The two other alleged perpetrators have never been identified, according to prosecutors.

Three months after he posted bail, the victim produced a tape of a menacing phone message from Baker left on her answering machine. Police arrested Baker a day later and his bail was raised to $100,000; he was released the next day.

Ten days later, the victim produced another series of taped phone messages. Again, Baker was arrested and held without bail. At a bail hearing in August, George produced the first evidence that the tapes were fakes: an analysis by the Somerville-based Sensimetrics Corp., which found the tapes appeared to be composites from other phone calls. Although prosecutors did not accept the finding, bail was reinstated at $110,000, which Baker quickly posted.

In November, the victim again gave police a tape - a 40-minute conversation between Baker and the victim, which she recorded using a speakerphone and a video camera. On it, Baker purportedly confesses to the rape and kidnapping. For the fourth time, Baker found himself back in jail, but didn't have enough money to make the $50,000 bail.

This time, however, prosecutors had that tape analyzed by the FBI, which took less than a week to conclude that the tape showed signs of tampering. After a hearing on Thursday, Baker was released on his own recognizance.

Though prosecutors say their cases are solid, the evidence against Baker and Weir may have some deficiencies.

DNA samples taken from Baker and Weir do not match evidence found on the victim, even though DNA from the victim was found at the garage where the alleged attack occurred, prosecutors and defense attorneys have said.

Fingerprints found in the victim's home don't match them, either, and there were no signs of semen found on the victim after the alleged attack.

But it's the tapes that are the focus of the defense attorneys.

''I think it goes without saying that any level of credibility that the victim had regarding the underlying allegations are gone,'' said Werner.

As for the Baker and Weir families, the case has been a nightmare.

''My family has been emotionally and financially destroyed,'' said Baker's sister, Mary Ellen Bergin, referring to the money spent to bail out her brother.

This story ran on page B03 of the Boston Globe on 12/18/1999.

© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.