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Ex-Fairview cop allowed to withdraw plea
Former Fairview Township police officer Tyson Baker can withdraw his guilty plea, in which he admitted to stealing money from drug traffickers in the township, according to an order from U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo.
In Rambo's memorandum, dated Thursday, she wrote that Baker had genuinely asserted his innocence and has not taken truly contradictory positions before the court.
Jury selection for his trial is scheduled for June 12.
Baker had a plea agreement in place with federal prosecutors until Jan. 17, when Rambo insisted he clearly admit guilt before she would sentence him. When he declined to do that, she presided as he withdrew one of his two guilty pleas to theft.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney's Office asked Rambo to deny his request to withdraw his guilty pleas.
Rambo was asked to promptly sentence Baker on both counts, according to a brief filed by prosecutors. The 12-page brief argues that Baker breached his plea agreement by initially accepting responsibility and pleading guilty in court to two theft counts, then later reneging.
A March 1 filing by Baker's new attorney, Philadelphia-based Jack McMahon, states that Baker pleaded guilty to two counts of his federal indictment because of his "simple desire to get it over with and move on" and not because he's guilty.
FBI sting: Baker, 42, of Corn Hill Road in Fairview Township, spent about 17 years with Fairview Township Police and served on the York County Drug Task Force before 2010.
He was charged after a fellow Fairview Township police officer became a confidential informant for the FBI and worked with the agency to investigate Baker.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney William Behe, Baker talked with the informant in the spring and summer of 2015 about stealing money from drug traffickers driving through Fairview Township.
Prosecutors said Baker and the confidential informant stole and shared $2,000 cash that the informant skimmed during a drug raid at a township home in November 2015. The informant turned over his share to the FBI, officials have said.
Then on Dec. 16, 2015, the FBI set up a sting in which an FBI agent posed as a drug trafficker driving through Fairview Township. The plan was for the informant/officer to pull over the agent and alert Baker, Behe has said.
$15K worth of bait: The undercover agent posing as a drug trafficker carried $15,000 cash and 400 inert OxyContin pills, according to Behe.
A short time after Baker was called to act as backup, he was contacted by the FBI and told the "trafficker" was under federal investigation. Baker was instructed by the FBI not to search the vehicle, according to court records.
Despite that, Baker had the vehicle towed to a nearby garage where he searched it without a warrant and took $3,000 cash and a hidden camera he found inside, Behe has said, although Baker missed at least one other hidden camera.
Baker never submitted as evidence any of the cash or the camera that he removed, according to court records.
Fairview Township Police placed Baker on paid administrative leave in December 2015. Township supervisors fired him Feb. 29, 2016.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.