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Elizabeth Forward school director, girlfriend held for court in burglary case

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 4:01 a.m.

An Elizabeth Forward school director and his girlfriend were held for trial on charges stemming from a burglary at her mother's Port Vue house.

“She crushed me,” Linda Hickman said after Tuesday's preliminary hearing in Glassport for her daughter Linda Lee Baker, 41, of West Mifflin and Francis J. Posa, 47, of Elizabeth.

“That's whom she was living with when I went in the hospital,” Baker's mother testified before Magisterial District Judge Armand Martin.

Hickman said the burglary of jewelry and coins occurred a day after she went in for surgery to deal with a resurgence of cancer.

“I've beaten it before,” Hickman said after the hearing. “I'm going to beat it again.”

Posa, who was elected to the Elizabeth Forward board last November, and Baker are charged with receiving stolen property. Baker also is charged with burglary and theft by unlawful taking.

The Glassport magistrate said Allegheny County assistant district attorney Jonathan Lusty presented a prima facie case and ordered May 14 formal arraignments for Posa and Baker in Pittsburgh.

Posa's attorney Charles LoPresti of Jefferson Hills argued that Lusty did not present a prima facie case against his client for a receiving stolen property charge.

Baker is represented by Allegheny County assistant public defender Max Cotton, who asked few questions in cross-examination but did elicit a “No” when he asked Hickmanif she saw anyone take the jewelry and coins. Hickman was in the hospital on Jan. 27, and the coins and jewelry allegedly were taken to dealers on Jan. 28.

LoPresti stressed in his argument that “this whole case is Baker, Baker, Baker,” while Posa “has mere presence here.”

“We have the defendant (Baker),” Lusty said. “She's dating Mr. Posa. He's the one providing the (identification).”

Martin said he understood LoPresti's argument but pointed to testimony against Posa when coins and jewelry were taken to Treasure Hunt in Belle Vernon.

“He didn't want a check,” Treasure Hunt employee Crystal Dillon testified. “But (Baker) persuaded him to go ahead and take the check (instead of cash for the items).”

All counts in the case are felonies, prompting LoPresti to question how those counts were graded.

“Grading does not come into play at a preliminary hearing,” Martin said.

Lusty pointed to a photocopy of the paperwork filled out at Treasure Hunt, showing that more than $2,000 was exchanged for items taken there.

LoPresti pressed Dillon on specifics.

“Linda was taking items out of a bag, Francis was taking things out of his pocket,” Dillon testified.

“You don't know what he gave you, ” LoPresti insisted.

Allegheny County Police Detective Edward Adams testified that Baker admitted taking the items during an interview outside the West Mifflin courtroom of Magisterial District Judge Richard D. Olasz Jr., where she still owes fines from a 2011 case.

Posa was not approached by county police until his arraignment before Martin.

“Mr. Posa declined to give a statement,” Adams said.

Posa remained free on nonmonetary bond.

Lusty said Baker's relatives are afraid that she will flee to Georgia, but Cotton argued that his client could be released to a halfway house if her bond was reduced.

Martin reduced Baker's bond from $10,000 to nonmonetary, noting that the bond is concurrent with an obligation to settle $274.50 in fines and costs.

Baker owes those fees after pleading guilty to summary disorderly conduct charges before Olasz in September 2011.

She is scheduled for a payment determination hearing before the West Mifflin magistrate on April 3 at 9 a.m.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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