Free Al Baker

Ξ October 6th, 2007 | → | ∇ the guide magazine |

Editorial from The Guide Editorials Archive

August 2001

In the last 20 years Stalinistic legislation has tremendously eroded Americans’ civil liberties. “Child pornography” is now so broadly defined that no children (nor even any nudity) need be involved. Possessing images that state experts think evoke a sexual response by the owner is a crime. And thousands are now incarcerated in “treatment” gulags, not serving time for anything they did, but rather jailed for crimes bureaucrats imagine they might commit.

Anyone who thinks that such violations of civil rights are visited only on the monstrous should consider the case of Al Baker. Baker is currently at Massachusetts’s Bridgewater Treatment Center where he is officially a “resident,” but a “resident” surrounded by razor wire, bunked with violent criminals, and shackled when transported.

Baker was arrested in 1991 on two counts of rape of a 29-year-old man. This man waited three months (during which time he and Baker continued friendly relations) to claim that the oral sex he and Baker had earlier was not consensual (though in court he admits he returned voluntarily week after week). Why was Baker convicted on so flimsy a case? In court the prosecution paraded whips and dildos taken from Baker’s basement playroom, even though the alleged victim had never been shown the toys nor the playroom! The prosecution played a videotape of Baker enacting kinky, but completely consensual, scenes with adult partners that had nothing to do with the acts Baker was convicted of! Al Baker was railroaded because he was a leatherman with a non-vanilla sexual repertoire– what judge wants to set such a pervert free?

Pursuant to Baker’s rape charge, police raided his house. Baker had hosted a computer bulletin board for leathermen; among the thousands of electronic images seized (most of the Tom of Finland variety), prosecutors alleged that 22 of the guys portrayed were minors. Anyone looking at the pictures could see that the models were not children and could just as easily be 23 as 17. But Baker lacked records proving the age of each model, and he was charged with 187 counts of “sexual exploitation of children.” (Each time a bulletin board user downloaded one of the photos– the likes of which can be found on thousands of popular, mainstream web sites today– Baker was charged with another count.)

Baker wrapped up his full sentence this past June, always a model prisoner. But he is still imprisoned. His prosecutors claim he has a “personality abnormality” and thus is a “sexually dangerous person” to be incarcerated indefinitely.

Legal fiction maintains that such imprisonment is not punishment, but rather treatment. A state-paid examiner reviewed Baker’s record (along with unsubstantiated police hearsay) and determined, having never met Baker, that he is sexually dangerous and in need of involuntary civil commitment.

In a classic Catch-22, any protest by Baker is seen as a denial of his responsibility. Baker has steadfastly refused to take part in a “sex offender treatment program,” in part because he would have been required to sign away rights against self-incrimination; anything revealed to his “therapist” could, and most-assuredly would, be used against him in court. Prosecutors claim that by thus asserting his rights, Baker proves his guilt.

The court will decide Al Baker’s fate in the coming months. Prosecutors are trying to expand the definition of “personality abnormality” to include not only those branded pedophiles, but also guys like Baker who embrace a more creative view of sexuality with like-minded, consenting adults. Prosecutors hope that by tainting Baker with bogus child pornography charges, we will overlook their expanded attacks on civil liberties.

But as gay people, we remember that until recently all of us were deemed criminally sick and deserving of the “treatment” now being forced on Al Baker. Justice and forward-looking self-interest compel us to demand that the court end Al Baker’s ordeal and set him free.

 

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