Courts admit error in felon's hiring

FRANKFORT, KY -- The state court system erred when it hired a persistent felony offender who was on parole to work as a court officer and is changing its rules to make sure the mistake isn't repeated, officials said Friday.

The action comes in response to a July 9 Lexington Herald-Leader article that reported an investigation of Francis Baker, a persistent felony offender who worked as a pre-trial officer at the Lexington-Fayette Detention Center.

"In the case of Mr. Francis Baker, the Administrative Office of the Courts erred by hiring him to serve as a pre-trial officer, a position that required him to monitor criminal defendants," Deputy Director Laurie K. Dudgeon said in a statement to the newspaper. "Going forward, the AOC will put into place the checks and balances necessary to ensure that similar hiring errors are avoided."

The AOC no longer will allow felons to make decisions about criminal defendants, Dudgeon said. In addition, the AOC will track the criminal history of all new hires and will hire felons only for other appropriate jobs at least two years after they have successfully completed parole or probation.

Previously, the court system did not track how many felons it hired.

"The AOC continues to be committed to the philosophy that employment can play a key role in rehabilitating criminal defendants, while also recognizing the importance of public trust and confidence in the court system," she said.

As a pre-trial officer at the Lexington jail, Baker met with new inmates and reviewed their arrests and criminal histories before making bond recommendations to Fayette County judges. Baker also worked at the Fayette County courthouse, in a program that required electronically monitored defendants to have drug screenings as a condition of their release.

Baker was transferred to an administrative job in pre-trial services at AOC's headquarters in Frankfort on June 29 after an investigation of allegations that he misused his authority over defendants.

Baker was hired by the state court system in 2007, while still on parole for his multiple felony convictions.

His felony and misdemeanor convictions date to 1981, including burglary, forgery, possession of cocaine and facilitating the trafficking of controlled substances. Most of Baker's convictions occurred in the 1990s. Baker was arrested other times through 2005, but several charges were dismissed.

Baker declined to comment for this story, reports The Lexington Herald-Leader.

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