- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - An Iraq war Army veteran will spend 10 years in federal prison for taking a 13-year-old family friend across state lines for sex.

Joshua Baker, 33, of Leeper, pleaded guilty in August to a single count of interstate transportation of a minor for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual activity. He was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon to a sentence previously agreed upon by prosecutors and his public defender. Ten years is the minimum prison sentence for that crime.

State prosecutors originally filed kidnapping and interference of custody charges before federal prosecutor took over the case. They contend he met the girl and began a sexual relationship with her when she was 12, before helping her to sneak away from home in March 2013.

Baker was found with the girl and arrested in Martin, South Dakota, in April 2013, and has been in custody ever since.

Baker was a married father of two children, now 10 and 7, when he met the girl at a family gathering in 2012. Their divorce is pending, according to his federal public defender Akin Adepoju.

At Wednesday’s sentencing, Adepoju and Baker’s relatives argued he was a normal person before his combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder changed his behavior.

According to a sentencing memorandum filed earlier this month, Baker enlisted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was a gunner in Humvees that were twice hit by roadside bombs, as well as coming under mortar, machine gun and other enemy fire.

Baker also carried the bodies of children who had been “dismembered and burned to death,” and the Department of Veterans Affairs determined he was “permanently and totally disabled based on PTSD - a rare finding,” the defense argued.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaun Sweeney didn’t dispute the defense claims, but argued Baker’s crime was serious and warranted a severe sentence.

Authorities have said the girl and her parents wish to put the incident behind them. They did not attend Baker’s sentencing.

Baker was arrested after he and the girl aroused the suspicions of an optical store clerk in Rapid City, South Dakota. Baker was trying to buy glasses for the girl, and said she was his sister even though they were holding hands.

Another employee wrote down Baker’s license plate number, and that evening, the clerk searched the Internet and found a notice that the girl had disappeared from her home several days earlier. She called the police in Rapid City and in Clarion, Pennsylvania, where Baker was charged with kidnapping.

Rapid City police tried to catch Baker when he was scheduled to bring the girl back for an appointment at the eyeglasses store on April 5, 2013, but they never showed. Instead, police in Martin, South Dakota, spotted the car at a Dairy Queen the next day and arrested Baker.

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