Updated Sat, Aug 10, 2013 9:46 am
A Belpre man who accepted a plea deal which convicted him of 14 felony charges — including attempted murder — is appealing his case, arguing that he didn’t get along with his attorney, that his attorney was ineffective and that he was less culpable than a co-defendant but received a longer prison sentence.
Brandon Baker, 21, was one of four men who accepted plea deals and were sentenced to prison for their involvement in the Jan. 24, 2012 attack on octogenarian Ota Vincent. Vincent was 83 years old at the time, and was left for dead inside her Coolville home after a brutal attack that night involving Baker, Colin Stout, Cody Stout and Christopher Fleming. Vincent survived her injuries, but has left Athens County.
Colin Stout — the main perpetrator of the attack — was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Cody Stout and Fleming were each sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison for their roles in the assault. Baker was sentenced to 20 years.
In appealing the case to the 4th District Court of Appeals, State Public Defender E. Kelly Mihocik asserts that the only reason Baker received a heavier sentence is because the trial court refused to allow Baker’s former attorney, Eric Hedrick, to withdraw from the case.
“The record in this case establishes that (Hedrick) had a deteriorating relationship with the prosecutor’s office, that he pleaded to be removed and he admitted that he could not competently engage in plea negotiations on Mr. Baker’s behalf,” Mihocik wrote.
Mihocik states that Colin Stout was the defendant who actually attacked the woman and that of the four men — all of whom were on drugs at the time — Baker was the one who pulled Stout off of Vincent, stopping the beating. It is admitted, however, that it was Baker’s idea to break into the house and that Baker held Vincent’s feet during the attack.
Mihocik writes that the prosecution and defense had talked about a 15-year deal for Baker, but that the prosecution later changed that to 18 years. Mihocik cites Hedrick’s argument that the change was due to a “turbulent relationship” Hedrick had with the prosecutor’s office, to the point where Baker no longer wanted Hedrick as his attorney. Hedrick agreed with his client and told the court, “I honestly don’t blame him at this point.” The court, however, did not excuse Hedrick from the case.
Baker’s new attorney argues that there is no reason that Baker should have been sentenced to five years longer than Colin Stout.
“The court did not provide any basis for the differentiation,” Mihocik wrote. “Baker had virtually no criminal record, was remorseful, was just 19 years old, and was battling a drug addiction.”
The attorney goes on to argue that Baker’s sentence is unconstitutional. He also asserts that had Hedrick challenged Baker’s sentence and demanded an explanation for the disparity between his and Stout’s prison time, “the trial court would not have been able to offer one.”
Mihocik is asking that the court vacate Baker’s plea and remand the case back to common pleas court for further proceedings.
The Athens County Prosecutor’s Office has not yet filed a response to the appeal brief.