After allegations that the vice chairman of the State Commission for Judicial Conduct was sexting during one of the commission's meetings, he is now under investigation by his colleagues for, well, judicial misconduct.
This week, Smith County Judge Joel Baker was accused of sending more than 1,000 explicit messages to a woman he added as a friend on Facebook last year. The anonymous woman contacted a private investigator named Tim McLemme after learning that Baker was an elected judge, and she and McLemme reportedly put together a plan to keep leading Baker on. They recently sent all the messages — some of which were time-stamped during SCJC meetings and taxpayer-funded conferences — to KLTV, which broke the story and prompted the commission to open an investigation into Baker. He resigned from the commission earlier this month, citing grief over the death of his father last year as reasoning, according to a letter obtained by KLTV.
The woman told KLTV that Baker's messages started just after she broke up with her boyfriend and made that public on Facebook. "He messaged me and said something along the lines like, 'Hey, how are you. I would love to come drink a glass of wine with you,' is how it started. That’s how our initial contact was."
From there, the two would exchange nude pics and “dozens of sexually charged messages,” KLTV reported. In one dated February 10, Baker tells her he's at a meeting “looking at complaints about judges.”
Baker responded to KLTV in a lengthy letter, denying everything and instead saying that he was the one who has been constantly targeted by someone trying to destroy his career.
"I was contacted in early January by an anonymous caller telling me there were people out to get me who had hired a private investigator to “dig up dirt” on me, and they were planning to use a female to catch me in a compromising “rendezvous” situation. This new revelation took the situation to the next level and caused me great concern for the safety of my family."
The letter goes on, referencing the Facebook woman: "Thinking she might be the person that the anonymous caller referred to, my wife and I agreed that I would continue the conversation with (identity withheld) to find out who was behind this mess. [She] sent two sexually explicit videos of herself. She asked to meet me and I agreed to meet in an attempt to determine who she was working with and/or to confront these people."
McLemme told KLTV that the woman never met with him face to face. Despite being so concerned that this person was apparently out to get him and trying to ruin his life, KLTV reports that in its review of all the messages, Baker never once asked her where the woman lived, who she worked with or any other identifying information, nor did he reach out to law enforcement or investigators so they could help protect him. Instead, he wrote at one time, “I’ve run a complete background check on you...jk.”
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At a public commissioner's court meeting earlier this week, residents of Smith County called for Baker to also resign as county judge. One person at the meeting even dug up accusations from 2011 that Baker was a peeping Tom who watched her undress through her window and sent her inappropriate texts, as WLOX reported. Baker was never charged with anything, but the woman at the meeting wouldn't let it go. She criticized him for bringing God into it when Baker said, according to WLOX:
"There are some people who seem to want to wrap themselves in a veil of self-righteousness and place themselves on a pedestal,” he continued, before asking for the woman to be removed from court during a subsequent outburst.
“There are others who quietly show Christ’s love through their encouragement and their prayers. For those people, my family and I are very thankful. Very thankful,” he said, becoming emotional. “I want to apologize to the members of this court and my friends for any embarrassment I’ve caused them. Thank you.”
The SCJC confirmed in a statement that thanks to KLTV's report, it was opening an investigation into Baker, who may have to sit across the table from the commissioners once they're done.
Sounds like that'll be quite the awkward meeting.