Hank Lanier Baker says June 4, 2014, the night he encountered a woman in her Shirley Hills yard, was the first time he’d ever gone into public naked.
After listening to testimony and reviewing evidence, on Friday Judge Howard Simms found Baker guilty of criminal attempt to commit rape and battery. Baker, 49, had waived his right to a jury trial and instead opted for the judge to decide his fate.
Simms called Baker’s version of the events -- that the woman had attacked him -- “absurd” and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
An agitated Baker fired back at the judge, “Stick it up your ass,” and deputies rushed to handcuff and hold Baker as the judge sentenced him to a year in the county jail for the battery charge. Both sentences will run simultaneously.
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The Jackson Springs Road woman said she’d just finished watching TV in her den at about 12:30 a.m. June 4 when she walked outside.
Her children were upstairs asleep. Her husband had just come in from the pool house where he’d been playing video games.
“As I was walking to the pool house ... something just caught my eye. So I backed up and looked, and there was a naked man standing there on the bricks between the crepe myrtles,” the woman said. “I was shocked seeing what I was seeing.”
Having never seen the man before, she asked what he was doing in her yard.
“He told me he was looking for sex,” the woman testified.
She said the man then started walking toward her, and she ran back toward her house, but he grabbed her, and the two fell to the ground.
With the naked man on top of her, pulling her elastic waisted pajama pants, the woman tucked her knees in tight to prevent her pants from being removed, she said.
Screaming, she tried to activate her car’s panic alarm with her keys to no avail.
At some point, the man choked her. She came close to blacking out, unable to breathe.
“My first fear was that I was going to be raped in my driveway,” the woman testified. “The second was that I was going to die.”
About then, the man ran away down the driveway. The woman rushed inside, locked the door and called 911.
Bibb County Sheriff’s Office investigator Daniel Shurley testified deputies received several reports of a naked man being spotted in the area near the intersection of Gray Highway and North Avenue, not far from the woman’s house, in the week or so between the incident and Baker’s arrest.
In one, the man was spotted darting in and out of traffic, Shurley said.
Deputy Dallas Malone testified Monday that he saw a naked man fitting the description of the woman’s attacker June 12, 2014, and caught him after a foot chase with the help of a Taser.
When questioned by Baker’s lawyer, Rick Waller, Malone said Baker defecated in a patrol car once in custody.
Shurley testified Friday that Baker also urinated in a trash can at the sheriff’s office.
The Shirley Hills woman admitted during her testimony that she couldn’t pick her attacker out a photo line-up presented by police.
“I described it to the officer that he looked like Jar Jar Binks to me, the ‘Star Wars’ character. He was just skinny, long, lanky and had long hair.”
She said she didn’t pay attention to her attacker’s face as they struggled on the ground.
A comparison of the hair caught in the woman’s key ring to a sample from Baker showed the hair was Baker’s, said prosecutor Nancy Scott Malcor.
‘A BLACKOUT STATE’
The defense’s first witness, Patrick Berger, testified he’s been in a romantic relationship with Baker for five years.
They met when Berger’s uncle hired Baker to do some work on his home. Baker was living in a guest room at Berger’s uncle’s house, where Berger also lived.
“We hit it off,” he said.
Although Berger said he didn’t know where Baker lived before he met him, he said he knew Baker had been homeless at some point and that he had a criminal past.
Baker also testified in his own defense.
He told of how he’s had a drinking problem since he “was old enough to buy it.”
Baker said he doesn’t remember much about the night he encountered the woman in her yard.
He said he’d had three or four liquor drinks -- maybe margaritas -- plus six or seven 24-ounce beers.
“I was in a blackout state,” he said.
Baker contends he tried to run away after the woman spotted him, and they collided, with him on top of her.
“She must have hit me on the head with her keychain,” he said.
Baker said he didn’t intend to hurt or rape anyone.
He said he wasn’t sober any of the times he was spotted in public naked.
When asked about his sexual orientation, he said he’s a gay man, but he admitted having relationships with women in the past.
His last “meaningful” relationship with a woman was in 1995. Since then, he’s been in relationships with men, Baker said.
During the sentencing portion of the trial, Malcor presented evidence of Baker’s past convictions dating back to 1986, a burglary from Cobb County; obstruction of an officer, possession of methamphetamine, interference with government property and possession of tools for the commission of a crime out of Cherokee County; and another burglary from Barrow County.
Because of his prior convictions, the law required that Baker be sentenced to the maximum penalty for attempted rape, 30 years with no option for parole. However, the judge did have discretion in what portion of the 30 years Baker would serve in prison and how much could be served on probation.
Waller, in arguing for a shorter prison stint, said Baker already is serving a three-year sentence from Barrow County and faces 13 years of probation when he’s released.
Malcor asked for Baker to be sentenced to spend the next 30 years in prison.
In addressing the judge, Baker said he wants to complete his GED and get vocational training in the computer field to help him when he’s released. During his testimony, he said he has an eighth-grade education.