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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2011

Prisoner's trial examines whether letters are threats

Peppering his letters with words such as "kill" and "die," Mark Baughman indicated in writing exactly what he intended to do when he was released from prison, a Lucas County assistant prosecutor said Tuesday.

"Often when things happen, we say that no one saw it coming," said Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the prosecutor's office. "Mr. Baughman has told us what he's going to do. We don't need to predict the future."

Baughman, 58, is charged with two counts of making terrorist threats in a series of letters sent to his former girlfriend, a Lucas County common pleas judge, and his former attorney. The letters, written over several years, were read in court during Baughman's one-day trial before Visiting Judge Michael Kelbley of Seneca County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Kelbley said after hearing all the testimony Tuesday that he intends to issue his verdict Jan. 19.

Testifying Tuesday was Baughman's former girlfriend and the mother of his two children, Mary Cole, who said she had endured a decade-long abusive relationship with Baughman that began more than 30 years ago.

Ms. Cole said the couple's relationship eventually turned civil and that when he was incarcerated in 1991, she would visit him and send him money.

Baughman was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison by Judge Ruth Ann Franks after being convicted of one count of attempted robbery.

He was denied parole several times because of threatening letters he sent while in custody, authorities said.

On July 12, he was indicted by a Lucas County grand jury for making terrorist threats. If convicted he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Tuesday, Ms. Cole read passages from the letters she received over the years, including one in which Baughman wrote, "I have an insatiable desire and thirst for revenge and killing. Who wants to go first?"

Another letter from Baughman that Ms. Cole read in court was signed "Felon, Prisoner, Serial Killer, Mark."

Ms. Cole was shaken as she read through some of the letters.

As she testified, Baughman occasionally nodded as if in agreement.

"I felt his wrath for a good many years. I know what he's capable of," she said.

During his arguments to the court, defense attorney Adrian Cimerman said that although "Baughman's writing may be disconcerting" and even was a crime such as an aggravated menacing -- a first-degree misdemeanor -- there was no evidence to suggest Baughman faced the higher-level felony.

Mr. Cimerman said the statute under which Baughman was charged was created in 2002 in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

He added that the law was "not crafted to handle individuals such as Mark Baughman."

Mr. Lingo countered during closing arguments that the charges Baughman faces do not require proof that the defendant be able to commit the offense.

Instead, he said Baughman "has told us what he intends to do and the law prohibits that."

"The law is crafted to prevent the threats so people in society and people in the [judicial] system can go about their business without having to look over their shoulders to see if Mark Baughman is there," he said.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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