Man pleads not guilty to domestic assault, burglary

BENNINGTON — A Shaftsbury man with a lengthy criminal history is being charged as a habitual offender after being accused of assaulting a woman last month.

Frank E. Baker, 51, pleaded not guilty in Bennington criminal court on Thursday to single felony counts of second-degree aggravated domestic assault and burglary into an occupied dwelling.

In a court affidavit, Vermont State Police said they were dispatched to a Route 7A residence for a reported domestic disturbance at about 8 p.m. on Nov. 11. A man told police that Baker struck a woman in the face and left the scene in his truck.

According to police, the woman said she confronted Baker about him using drugs, telling him his eyes "looked weird and asked him if he is high." Baker got angry and, after exchanging words, struck her with the back of his hand. The woman said a young child witnessed Baker striking her.

The woman told police that, when she told Baker she was going to make a statement against him, Baker replied, "I don't care, I'll kill you and burn down with you and the children in it."

The woman told police about prior incidents, including one from a few weeks earlier. She told police about when on a Sunday morning at about 6 a.m., Baker came to the apartment unexpectedly, broke her door in, came into her room and grabbed her briefly by her throat.

Troopers couldn't locate Baker and believed he was avoiding police. They applied for and received an arrest warrant for Baker on Nov. 11.

Deputy State's Attorney Alexander Burke said during the arraignment that Baker was arrested Wednesday at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. Baker, appearing via video from Rutland prison that day, had objected to being arraigned by video and invoked the 24-hour rule.

Burke said that Baker's "lengthy criminal record" includes acts of violence he had been on probation for. He asked that Baker be held without bail on the new charges and alleged probation violations.

Baker was on probation after being convicted in February 2016 of misdemeanor domestic assault against the same victim.

The felony charges carry a habitual offender sentencing enhancement, which the state can file on defendants who have been convicted of three or more felonies. Prosecutors could argue up to life in prison.

Defense attorney Mark Furlan, representing Baker, asked Judge David Howard that the case be set for a weight of evidence hearing after Jan. 1.

"There's some investigating we'd like to do," he said. "We don't see a need to schedule that immediately."

Ed Damon can be reached at, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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