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Firefighters go on offense, DA responds

Friday, November 15, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks says this is the first time he can ever recall his union starting a negative campaign on a public official. Firefighters launched a campaign Thursday called #NoDAMoore. “And to get involved in an issue like this, not a bread-and-butter issue, is very unusual,” he said. But 78 percent of firefighters voting on the issue voted to take this route, according to firefighters Rikki Stankevitz and Christine Jones. The campaign is an expression of frustration and anger over what firefighters perceive as a lack of commitment from District Attorney Margaret Moore to prosecute sexual crimes like that committed by former firefighter James Baker. Baker pleaded guilty last year and was placed on probation after admitting he had installed a video camera in the women’s locker room at the fire station. Although firefighters say the firefighter who caught Baker had plenty of evidence, Moore says that is simply not the case. In an email, she told the Austin Monitor, “I understand the pain, anger and frustration expressed by the women in the video. However, the video is inaccurate. It includes incorrect information. It does not tell the whole truth.” Moore said her prosecutors “reached a plea agreement that, in our experience, was appropriately harsh. Although the victim claims the defendant was not held accountable, the plea bargain agreement required the defendant to plead to a felony offense in open court, accept the maximum number of years of community supervision (five years), and permanently surrender his credentials to be a firefighter and an EMT instructor, ending his career.” Nicks and fellow firefighters point out that Baker was able to retire with full benefits and keep his other part-time jobs. Stankevitz and Jones said the firefighter who caught Baker filming “was met with anger and witness-shaming. … It was not what we should expect from our DA. … It’s not appropriate and we want to bring it to light.”

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