A federal grand jury has indicted a Clarion County man on charges of interstate transportation of a minor for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual activity.
U.S. Attorney for Western PA David Hickton said 31-year-old Joshua D. Baker of Leeper is also charged with travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a 13-year-old female. The indictment followed an investigation by the FBI and Clarion County authorities.
"This case illustrates how we work with our law enforcement partners on a matter of great importance to this office — child exploitation or predators who prey on our young children," Hickton said.
According to Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron, Baker was "in a relationship" with the girl and was allegedly running away from his wife. Aaron said that the suspect is the cousin of the girl's mother's fiance. The girl's friends also told police she had mentioned dating a 31-year-old man, with whom she planned to run away to Florida.
Hickton said it doesn't matter if the girl went willingly or not.
"The consent of the underage victim does not matter, if that in fact is true," Hickton said. "These statutes are designed to protect children who by law are deemed to be unable to form the consent because of their tender age."
Prior to the grand jury indictment Baker was charged with kidnapping a minor and interfering with custody.
Baker was arrested Saturday in Martin, S.D. two days after a store clerk saw Baker and the girl. That evening the store clerk, who said she had a "gut feeling," went on the Internet and found a notice that the girl had disappeared from her home. The clerk then called police.
Baker's wife told police that he left a note saying he intended to get a divorce.
If convicted, Baker faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison on the first federal count and a maximum of 30 years on the second. That could be in addition to any sentence he would get from charges filed in Clarion County.
The girl remained in protective custody Tuesday, and her mother issued a statement requesting privacy.