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A convicted sex offender who tried to snatch a 12-year- old girl from a Temecula street almost exactly a year ago — in what he insisted was an innocent act of asking for directions — was sentenced Friday to 60 years to life in state prison.

Robert Francis Baker, 69, of Hemet was convicted in April of attempted kidnapping, attempted lewd acts on a child, annoyance of a child by a registered sex offender and two counts of being in possession of child pornography.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Michael Donner imposed the required terms for each count but suspended sentencing on three counts at his discretion. Baker’s aggregate sentence otherwise would have been 135 years to life, according to court minutes.

The defendant acted as his own attorney throughout the roughly two-week trial but requested representation by a public defender during Friday’s sentencing hearing.

Baker argued to jurors that he had no intention of kidnapping the victim, identified in court documents only as “J.M.,” because he would not want to do “anything that could ruin … my life.”

Deputy District Attorney Edward Jensen described Baker as a predator, who had no reason to accost the victim on the afternoon of Aug. 12, 2016, except for unsavory purposes.

“This young girl told the defendant `no’ over and over again when he asked to give her a ride,” Jensen told jurors. “Yet, Mr. Baker continued to roll alongside her, refusing to take no for an answer.”

Jensen alleged that Baker pulled out a large roll of cash and flashed it at the girl as an inducement for her to get into his rented vehicle. But she firmly stated that she didn’t want a ride.

“I didn’t have any time to do anything inappropriate to her,” Baker said.

The defendant asserted that he was trying to locate a Temecula dentist on Pauba Road for a $6,000 procedure when he encountered J.M.

According to Baker, he was disoriented, unfamiliar with the area, and pulled over to ask the girl for directions.

The convicted felon wept while testifying, telling jurors that he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his freedom and risk not being able to care for his now-98-year-old mother.

The one-time charter boat captain said he had learned his lesson after a 1994 conviction for child molestation in San Diego County, and after serving a decade in prison, went out of his way to avoid run-ins with the law.

He admitted asking the victim twice whether she wanted a ride, even though she told him “no” the first time. Baker also acknowledged flashing cash at her, but said that he was trying to pull out his driver’s license to put J.M. at ease, and the money and card were bound together by rubber band.

The defendant said he was “two seconds” from pulling away from the curb when he was stopped by District Attorney’s Office Investigator Ron McGowan.

According to Jensen, McGowan was in the area on business and witnessed the interaction between Baker and the girl while passing in his vehicle. Jensen said the investigator stopped and asked J.M. whether she knew Baker, and when she said that she didn’t, “Ron intervened and detained the defendant.”

Sheriff’s deputies took over the investigation, during which they found multiple vibrators, condoms and lubricants in Baker’s rental car, according to Jensen. He also said that a search of the defendant’s Hemet home resulted in the seizure of several laptop computers loaded with child porn.

–City News Service

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