I come from a community where the judicial system is reasonably functional, so I was aghast at what happened in this court: I can't go into details because of privacy concerns. But the case involved the safety and well-being of a third party. Baker was more concerned with his grievances against one of the parties involved than he was with the facts of the case. I wouldn't have known he was a lawyer unless I had looked him up online. (County judges in Texas do not have to be lawyers.) I ran the whole thing past a competent lawyer later who said Baker was either unfamiliar with the laws involved or just made things up as he went along to support what he was and was not doing.
Judge Joel Baker is apparently a former minion of Judge Jack Skeen, Jr. who is well-known for having major cases overturned due to misconduct by himself and the prosecutors. Baker apparently likes to get into the news so he can get re-elected by the clueless voters of Smith County, Texas. He has the communication skills of an average eighth-grader. I wouldn't mind living the rest of my life without ever having to cross paths with this arrogant dimwit, his incompetent staffers, or his lap-dog assistant D.A. ever again. Lesson: Stay away from Smith County Texas unless you want to go back in time by about 70 years!
Judge Joel Baker has been investigated after allegedly sending sexually explicit messages and naked photos to a woman while he sat at the bench during hearings.
Smith County Judge Joel Baker served as vice chair on the State Commission for Judicial Conduct. He is currently the county judge (head of government) in Smith County, Texas.
The woman, who hasn’t been identified, hired a private investigator and the two of them collected all the evidence against him.
The judge allegedly sent more than a thousand sexually explicit messages to the woman on Facebook. He first sent the woman a friend request on Facebook last year.
She’d never met the judge and didn’t know him. In the first message he sent, he told her that he would love to drink a glass of wine with her.
The time stamps of the Facebook messages showed that he messaged her during hearings for the ethics commission (State Commission on Judicial Conduct). In addition to the sexually explicit messages, he allegedly sent multiple partially-nude photos of himself.
The woman says that she did consent to the sexual conversations and did request photos. She even sent the judge some explicit photos of herself.
Judge Baker denied that he wanted to have a relationship with the woman and said he was trying to meet her “to find out why she was trying to destroy his family”.
He also denied sending any explicit video or photos, but he resigned from the ethics commission. At the time of this report, he remains the county judge for Smith County, Texas.
SMITH COUNTY, TX Nov. 24, 2015: Sources say Judge Joel Baker and the Smith County Commissioners Court is being investigated by the FBI and Texas Attorney General’s Office. The investigation surrounds the proposed school zone speed camera system.
The contract with American Traffic Solutions was approved behind closed doors during executive session in August 2014. Judge Joel Baker signed the contract in January without the commissioner's knowledge. After the system was made public, Judge Joel Baker said signing without the public’s input was ‘my failure.’
The cameras were set to be deployed in school zones in rural parts of the county after it was met with controversy by the City of Tyler.
Not all the commissioner's were happy with the way the program was implemented. In an email, Commissioner Cary Nix replied to a concerned resident saying "I never saw the contract so Judge Baker is responsible...I assumed it was coming before the court , which it do not...These are ? For judge baker to answer"
In an email from Commissioner Terri Phillips to another concerned resident, he said, "I believe as you do that this contract was executed in a manner that was improper due to the fact that I was out of town and that there was nothing on the agenda item to alert the public or myself about this."
Commissioner Nix told us he was approached by the FBI several months ago; he said he's unable to speak about the investigation but says he's cooperating. Commissioner Jeff Warr also confirms an FBI investigation.
SUSPICIOUS CAMPAIGN FINANCE EXPENDITURES IN JOEL BAKER'S 2006 CAMPAIGN:
I'm not asserting Baker or anyone else did anything illegal, because I don't really know how the courts have interpreted the statutory prohibition against politicians converting campaign funds to personal use. But here are some interesting expenditures that were made during Baker's 2006 campaign and afterwards:
1. In may 2007 a $716 ticket on American Airlines, and a few days later, a $464 stay at a hotel in Austin. Huh? A trip to Austin? After the election? Because he ran for county judge in Smith County? What does a trip to Austin in 2007 have to do with running for county judge in Smith County in 2006? Or 2010? Or anything?
2. Oh, and on that same thread...Over $450 in meals, accommodations, and ground transportation in Washington, DC in June, 2007, including a tab of $170 at a Lebanese Restaurant, and $95 at a bistro. (I'm guessing the $716 plane ticket was for this, not to go to Austin.) Damn, I know dining is expensive in our nation's Big Corruption Capital, but how does eating Lebanese food in 2007 in Washington DC help you get elected in Smith County in 2006? Or 2010? Or any other time? Elsewhere Baker reports an "in kind" donation for airfare and hotel accommodations to attend some kind of "drug court" conference. Okay...But he ran for county judge, not for a district court. Baker's court hears probate, mental health, and adult guardianship matters (when he is in town), not "drug" cases. So again, I ask, what does going to a conference in Washington, DC about duties done by another kind of judge have to do with running for county judge in Smith County, Texas? He took the whole family, by the way.
3. And the one I really like, because the same thing was repeated in 2010: $3872 on furniture. For where? Add that to the 2010 furniture bill and that totals over $8,000 for this mysterious "campaign headquarters." Where? I don't see anything in the 2006, 2010, or 2014 disclosures about any spending on office rent. There was an "in-kind" donation of $3,000 in 2006 from the Genokov Group? Was that free rent on some office space? What kind of office would you get for $3,000 for more than a month? There was also a $2153 tab at Best Buy for "office supplies/AV equipment." That still in this hidden, underground "campaign headquarters," too? Yeah, I guess you could use a projector and a computer to run around presenting your imaginary "financial plan" for the county to various groups, then retreat to your imaginary "campaign headquarters" to get on Facebook and Twitter to whine about how people were being unfair and "throwing stones."
INTERESTING CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES IN JOEL BAKER'S 2010 CAMPAIGN: 1. $5,500 in consulting fees from a public relations expert. (He had no opponent in that campaign.) Furthermore, much of that was spent after it was certain he wouldn't have viable opposition, unless he was afraid Jesus Christ himself might return and run as a write-in candidate. And, thanks to his allies at the Tyler Morning Telecrap, the hullabaloo over the generous pay raises he started giving himself in 2008 had died down long before the 2010 election. The public relations firm he hired was Kranz PR, the solo operation of former Telecrap reporter/editor Laura Krantz. Interestingly, Laura's husband, Larry Krantz, was a big-wig in the local Department of Transportation office which was involved in building and operating Toll Loop 49 before it was turned over to NETRMA. Maybe Krantz was able to pull some strings and get him a little favorable publicity in the TeleCRAP or something. But $5,500?
2. Over $4,500 for furnishings for a "campaign headquarters." Do say. A campaign headquarters to serve as a communications hub to conduct a sophisticated and arduous campaign against...whom? Oh, and I don't remember seeing any actual expenditures on the "headquarters" itself on the report. If memory serves me correctly, it is illegal to use campaign funds to purchase any kind of real estate. So if Baker used a property he owned, or if someone gave him free rent somewhere, wouldn't that be considered a donation "in kind," which would have to be disclosed?
In August 2011 Smith County Judge Joel Baker was investigated by police after a family living near an investment property (house) Baker owned accused him of trying to make illegal video recordings of their daughter in the middle of the night. It was also reported in the police file that Baker displayed an i-pad in the window of his property (facing the young woman's window) with the message "Stop hiding...Text or call me" along with his personal cell phone number. Baker would not answer the door or his telephone for some time when police tried to speak to him. When Baker finally did answer the door, he refused to allow the police detective to take his computer (on which the videos would have been recorded) for examination, claiming the computer contained "sensitive county information." Baker claimed he had a camera in the window of his property (facing the neigbors' home) so he could determine whether someone was stealing electricity from his outdoor electrical outlet. However, the camera was not apparently pointed toward the outlet. The police never obtained a warrant, and Baker was allowed to take the computer to the police THE NEXT DAY so they could examine it.
If you have information of any crime or suspicious activity, including events taking place within a judicial proceeding, judicial corruption, obstruction of justice, witness, evidence, or jury tampering, or illegal asset and monetary seizure, embezzlement, or conversion, please contact the FBI, at: 415-553-7400 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
June 20, 2016: County Judge Joel Baker was booked into the Smith County jail on Friday on a misdemeanor charge of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said Baker turned himself in after 5 p.m. and was released as of 6 p.m. Friday.
Baker is charged with three counts of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act, a misdemeanor.
A warrant was issued Thursday from the Smith County Grand Jury, out of the 114th District Court, Smith said. Baker’s bond was set at the maximum of $2,000.
In a statement, Baker called the matter a “political witch hunt.”
“As the Attorney General and his supporters will agree, an indictment alone is no evidence of guilt or wrong doing.” he wrote. “I am not guilty of these charges. At no time did I, or any member of the court, knowingly violate the Texas Open Meetings Act. I maintain this (investigation) was not a mission to find the truth, rather a political witch-hunt. I look forward to producing the true facts to a jury. I am confident a jury will find these charges to be frivolous.”
If Baker is convicted of one or more of the charges, he would be removed from office. According to the Texas Association of Counties, a county judge can be removed for official misconduct.
“A judge or commissioner convicted for a violation of the Open Meetings Act is automatically removed from office,” according to the organization’s website.
The charges likely stem from an Attorney General investigation into Baker and the Commissioners Court after a complaint filed by Grassroots America – We the People on how the body handled a now-defunct contract to place unmanned speed cameras in county school zones.
The contract with Arizona-based company American Traffic Solutions was discussed in an executive session and approved by the court in August 2014.
Baker signed the contract in January 2015, and the matter became public months later in April, when a press release went out to local media. Commissioners said, at the time, they were unaware the contract had even been signed.
The contract remains valid but inactive.
June 21, 2016: Judge Joel Baker has been suspended without pay by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, effective immediately.
The order was released by the commission’s executive director Seana Willing and sent out on Tuesday. It was signed at 10:05 a.m. on Tuesday by Commission Chair Valerie E. Ertz. The order cites his indictments on three charges of violating of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
23 September, 2016: Suspended Smith County Judge Joel Baker signed a voluntary agreement September 20 to resign from his position as judge in resolution of the investigation into sexting allegations.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) began its investigation on March 15 following a KLTV report exposing accusations that Baker sent hundreds of sexually explicit messages and images to a woman while on official government business.
The voluntary resignation agreement signed by Baker and the SCJC chair says the commission is closing its investigation in exchange for Baker's resignation.
During the course of the commission's investigation, the agreement states "it was...alleged that Baker failed to cooperate with the Commission, failed to timely produce requested evidence, deleted information from his social media account and cell phone before donating the phone to charity...and attempted to influence testimony of a witness."
In the resignation, Baker agrees to have officially and permanently resigned from the office of Smith County judge. The resignation goes into effect on November 4 or on the day his pending criminal misdemeanor charges are resolved, whichever happens first.
Baker was indicted by a grand jury on June 16 for alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The SCJC suspended Baker without pay following those charges.
Also in the agreement, Baker will be forever disqualified from judicial service in the State of Texas.
The agreement states the resignation is not an admission of guilt or liability by Baker.