Austin

Ex-AFD supervisor pleads guilty to filming firefighter in locker room

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  A former Austin Fire Department lieutenant accused of putting a hidden camera in the locker room for female firefighters entered a guilty plea in a deal with prosecutors.

James Baker's attorney said earlier this week he agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a deferred adjudication probation of 5 years. During that time, he would not be in jail, but would need to check in regularly, could not leave the country without permission and could not drink or do drugs.

The Travis County District Attorney's Office said Baker, 53, did not commit additional violations because the camera was discovered by the victim, Baker never saw the video and the video did not show anything below the neck.

"We fully understand that the victim is not happy about the plea offer in this case, but our charge is to see that justice is done," the DA's Office said in a statement. 

Baker has agreed to surrender his credentials to be a firefighter, EMT or EMT instructor. "Mr. Baker will no longer be a firefighter or EMT and his guilty plea to a  felony offense will remain on his record for years beyond the term of his community supervision and will always be accessible to law enforcement and licensing agencies," the DA's Office said.

The state also recommended restitution to the victim for any associated costs or a $2,000 fine if there is no restitution.

Baker had no prior criminal history and submitted to an evaluation by a prosecutor regularly used by the state who concluded Baker was at low risk of re-offending, the district attorney's office said.

Dozens of firefighters, EMTs, police officers and others rallied outside the courthouse ahead of Baker's plea, then filled the court room. They said they showed up to support Kelly Gall, who came forward as the victim.

"The things she's had to endure are unimaginable," said Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks. "She's had to do this pretty much in silence, trying to work through a court case, thinking she's going to get justice in the end."

Nicks said he and many others she works with don't feel that she did get that justice.

"We're extremely disappointed of the outcome, that he can walk away without even a prosecution on his record," Nicks said. "Even sadder, I think that's what all women in Travis County can expect, unfortunately, and that's pretty hard to come to terms with."

Nicks blamed Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore for being too lenient on Baker. He said he believed he would receive a harsher punishment if the crime had happened in Williamson or Hays County.

Invasive Visual Recording is a state jail felony punishable by six months to two years in jail, in addition to five years of probation.


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