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Published: Friday, 2/10/2006

Official skips meeting, awaits arraignment

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Attorney Richard Hasbrook, left, with Henry County Commissioner Steve Baden at his arraignment today. Attorney Richard Hasbrook, left, with Henry County Commissioner Steve Baden at his arraignment today.
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NAPOLEON - Henry County Commissioner Steven A. Baden, who is to be arraigned this morning in Toledo Municipal Court on a charge of attempted abduction of a 14-year-old girl in South Toledo, did not attend yesterday's commissioners' meetings, saying in a statement his presence might be a distraction to the discussion of a proposed sales tax.

Mr. Baden, 39, of Hamler, Ohio, where he is a former mayor, was led out of the commissioner's office in handcuffs Wednesday morning and spent that afternoon and early evening in the Lucas County jail.

He originally was to be arraigned yesterday, but his appearance was delayed. His car remained in the Henry County sheriff's impound lot.

"There is absolutely nothing in Mr. Baden's prior history or background that would suggest the truth of these assertions, and he has no prior record of any kind," Mr. Baden's attorneys, Richard Karcher and Richard Hasbrook, said in a release.

"As has been repeatedly demonstrated in these types of cases, a rush to judgment often proves unwise, and it would be a disservice to reach speculative conclusions until a comprehensive investigation is concluded," they continued.

Mr. Baden had a statement delivered to the commissioner's office, via his pastor's wife, which Richard Bennett, president of the commissioners, read at yesterday's meeting before a public hearing on a proposed sales tax.

It said: "Commissioner Baden was informed [Wednesday] morning of certain allegations concerning events of Jan. 31 in Toledo.

"He immediately and voluntarily provided law enforcement all pertinent information and continues to cooperate fully. Steve has expressed confidence in the process that will permit a comprehensive investigation of this matter.

"Steven Baden has been a longtime public servant and understands the varied and important matters confronting the citizens of Henry County. While he is committed to assist public dialogue of all ramifications of the 0.5 percent sales tax, the commissioner believes his attendance [yesterday] morning may distract from legitimate discussion of the issue.

"Although he will not be participating in today's hearing, please be reminded that an additional session regarding the sales tax is scheduled for Monday.

"Commissioner Baden extends his appreciation to the many community members who have expressed their continued confidence in his integrity and leadership. Along with the unwavering support of his entire family, Steve recognizes that his many blessings will see him through this chapter and respectfully requests your patience as the legal process moves forward. Thank you."

President Bennett said he and Vice President Rita Franz would function on the premise that Mr. Baden is innocent until proven guilty.

"I told Commissioner Baden that I appreciated and respected him as a commissioner. That I would stand with him as a brother through this ordeal and would stand with him through the love of Christ for him," Mr. Bennett said. "He acknowledged and appreciated my words and said he could say nothing further."

Henry County Sheriff John Nye said that until Mr. Baden's car - a red Mustang - is released by Toledo police or the courts, it will remain in his impound lot as evidence and possible forfeiture if it was used in the commission of a crime.

He declined to say whether any evidence was found inside the car.

Mr. Baden is accused of following a girl in his car in South Toledo and then calling, "Come here little girl," before chasing her for a short distance on foot, during which time she ran "in fear of her life," according to a warrant for his arrest.

A Toledo police news release states that Mr. Baden attempted to grab the girl.

He was released from the Lucas County jail on a $2,500 bond and ordered to have no contact with the girl. The charge against him is a fourth-degree felony. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine, but the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office said fourth-degree felony convictions typically result in probation rather than prison.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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