Baggett gets six years for sexual assault charges
By Caitlin Davis
Oct 22, 2012, 12:10
Former Hopewell police officer Mark D. Baggett, 34, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday. He was convicted on three counts of aggravated sexual battery. Judge Sam Campbell suspended 24 of the 30 years of prison time.
Baggett’s Defense Attorney, Peter Eliades, of Eliades and Eliades, said the sentence is fair, considering the wide range of possible sentences Baggett faced.
State sentencing guidelines for the case meant the court could have required Baggett to serve an active sentence of 16 years and three months. The minimum sentencing requirement is three years and eight months.
“Vis-a-vis the guidelines, he did pretty well,” Eliades said.
Baggett, 34, of Colonial Heights, was arrested on a warrant felony charge of forcible sodomy on Jan. 12. The charges stemmed from a criminal complaint a 38-year-old female filed with the Hopewell Police Department in October 2011.
Because Baggett was an employee of the local police department at the time the complaint was filed, responsibility for the criminal investigation was turned over to the Virginia State Police.
As the investigation continued, two more counts of aggravated sexual battery were brought before the courts.
Baggett entered into an Alford Plea in June, meaning he did not admit to committing the acts he was accused of, but did admit that the prosecution could likely prove the charges.
Eliades said that Baggett maintained his innocence throughout the court proceedings.
Chesterfield County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, M. Duncan Minton, Jr., who was appointed as the special prosecutor in this case, said Baggett essentially played the blame game during the trial.
“He blames everyone else,” Minton said. “He blames the victims...the fact that he doesn’t accept responsibility causes concern, that he doesn’t acknowledge there is a problem.”
Minton said that the claims Baggett made in court against the victims were absurd, and out of line with the facts. He said Baggett claimed one of the victims held a box cutter to his chest and forcibly performed oral sex on him.
“You can’t tell me that a four year police officer cannot get away from someone holding a box cutter to their chest,” Minton said.
Eliades said he brought up Baggett’s difficult childhood and tough upbringing during the trial.
Eliades said Baggett was bounced between different homes as the child of a 14-year-old mother. Baggett dropped out of high school when he was 14, earning an EMS certification two years later. Eliades said Baggett worked as a fire fighter and medic in Iraq and for the Charles City County Sheriff’s Office and held a number of other EMS jobs.
“He was not looking for authority,” Eliades said. “He had all that and overcame his lack of self-esteem...he’s clawed his way up through life.”
Eliades said he felt that Judge Campbell was moved by the fact that at a young age, Baggett was dealt a bad hand of cards.
Minton said perhaps one of the biggest crimes Baggett committed was violating the trust of the community.
“He violated the trust,” Minton said. “...[Police officers] are held to a higher standard, a higher level of trust than the rest.”
Hopewell Police Chief John Keohane agreed with Minton, saying that Baggett violated the trust that goes along with the badge and the uniform.
“He violated the public trust,” Keohane said. “When you disgrace the badge so many of us wear we [at the police department] have zero tolerance for this. He deserved punishment.”
Keohane also said credit needs to be given to the three victims that came forward in the case.
“It was an act of bravery for them to come forward,” Keohane said. “We applaud them.”
Keohane said when the first victim came forward, he and other members of the department began to look back at all of Baggett’s arrests. Keohane said they found two other cases that aroused suspicion.
At that point, Keohane turned the evidence over to the Virginia State Police for further investigation.
Eliades said that at the end of the trial, when Baggett made his final statement to Judge Campbell, Baggett hung his head and broke into tears.
“I feel better knowing we did everything we could for him,” Eliades said. “He still maintains his innocence.”
As part of his sentencing agreement, Baggett must complete sex offender treatment and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. If Baggett commits another crime, regardless of its nature, he could face 24 years in jail.