AUSTIN, Texas — Ex-Austin firefighter James Baker pleaded guilty to invasive visual recording after a camera was found in women’s locker room at a downtown fire station last year.
In exchange for a guilty plea, Baker will be placed on probation. He also agreed to permanently surrender his credentials to be a firefighter, EMT or EMT instructor. He may also be facing a $2,000 fine.
A statement from the Travis County District Attorney’s Office says they “fully understand that the victim is not happy about the plea deal, but their charge is to see that justice is done.” The statement goes on to say: “This includes taking into account the harm to the victim, the conduct, and the effect on the perpetrator.”
Sentencing will take place November 2.
"I think the district attorney believes in earnest that this is the best that she can do and we believe in earnest that's just not good enough," said Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association.
Dozens of first responders gathered at the Travis County Courthouse to support Kelly Gall, who recently came forward as the victim in this case. Baker was Gall's supervisor in September of 2017 when he put a camera in the locker room at the fire station where the two worked.
Gall found the camera and turned it over to police. Baker retired from the department just days later.
The courtroom was standing room only as people poured out through the doorway listening to Baker's fate.
"We are extremely disappointed of the outcome, that he can walk away without a prosecution on his record," Nicks said.
It was a decision that many firefighters, especially female, agree is an injustice.
"I wanted to show her that I've very supportive of her and apologetic of what happened to her," firefighter Xochitl Chafino said. "I hope it doesn't deter other women from joining or from considering fire service as a career."
Baker's lawyer, Larry Sauer, says that Baker has accepted responsibility for what he did. Sauer says the punishment fits the crime because the camera only caught a brief shot of Gall's face.
The Austin Fire Department did not comment on the plea deal.