Smith County residents call for judge's resignation

VIDEO: Inside the Smith County Commissioners Court meeting
Smith County Judge Joel Baker opens a Tuesday morning meeting of the Smith County Commissioners Court. (Source: KLTV)
Smith County Judge Joel Baker opens a Tuesday morning meeting of the Smith County Commissioners Court. (Source: KLTV)

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Smith County residents called for the resignation of the county judge Tuesday during a commissioners court meeting that was, at times, rife with tension.

The commissioners held their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, just one day after allegations were leveled against County Judge Joel Baker that he engaged in explicit sexual behavior online while conducting government business. The accusations were from a woman who asked to remain anonymous and private investigator, Tim McLemee, who specializes in digital evidence.

Baker serves as chief judge for Smith County and served as vice chairman on the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC). He resigned from his position on the commission March 4.

MORE: Judge accused of sexting while sitting on judicial conduct board

Residents were not reserved when weighing in on the issue, with three commenters calling for Baker's resignation. One exchange became so charged, the commenter was escorted from court.

The commenter alluded to 2011 accusations where a 23-year-old woman reported to Tyler police that Baker watched her undress through a bedroom window and sent her inappropriate messages. No charges were filed in that case but the incident was brought up repeatedly by one person during the comment portion of the meeting.

Baker interjected, saying, "Ma'am I'm sorry. You're not following the rules. You can ask for an item to be placed on a future agenda. That's all you can do."

The woman, who said she is also an alumna of TJC, then requested that Baker's name be stricken from any college project he may have been involved in.

"You are an insult to the college and this community. How dare you?" she said.

"Ma'am, you're stepping across the line, again. The rules. Follow the rules," Baker responded.

She again brought up the 2011 allegations and Baker asked her to be seated.

"We all know you know plenty about child pornography," she said.

"Ma'am, I've asked you to sit down. Your time's up," the judge replied.

The woman responded, "Your time's up as well."

As the woman headed back to her seat, Baker addressed the court.

"Let me just say that in the way of public comment, I am so grateful that God's grace is different from what I see exemplified by these people," the judge said.

The woman interrupted saying, "You're going to use God?"

She was escorted back to her seat by county officials.

"There are some people who seem to want to wrap themselves in a veil of self-righteousness and place themselves on a pedestal," he continued, before asking for the woman to be removed from court during a subsequent outburst.

"There are others who quietly show Christ's love through their encouragement and their prayers. For those people, my family and I are very thankful. Very thankful," he said, becoming emotional. "I want to apologize to the members of this court and my friends for any embarrassment I've caused them. Thank you."

Other exchanges were less charged. Two people questioned the integrity of the court and asked for Baker's resignation to be added to the court's meeting agenda.

"I would hope that those that have damaged the integrity (of the court) would do the honorable thing and step down," one man said.

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