Joseph Baca busted for sex assault after 4/20 rally, but booze may have played a bigger part

Those critical of marijuana legalization in general and the annual 4/20 rally at Denver's Civic Center Park in particular may be tempted to use the cold-case bust of Joseph Baca as an example of weed's evil. After all, Baca is accused of sexually assaulting a fourteen-year-old at a post-smoke-out party.

However, a closer inspection of the arrest report suggests that alcohol may have been a bigger factor. Continue to see the document, plus photos and details about this terrible crime.

On April 21, 2010, according to the arrest warrant, police officers were called to Denver Health Medical Center. There, they interviewed two fourteen-year-old girls, one of whom appeared to have been sexually assaulted the day before, although she couldn't remember the details.

What did she remember? The previous day, April 20, she recalled being at the McDonalds near 16th and Broadway when she encountered what is described as an "unknown Black female" who subsequently introduced the pair to some male friends.

Shortly thereafter, the teens accompanied this group to a nearby apartment, where a party took place. There, one of the girls said she had "some kind of drink" and then blacked out.

Even after she regained consciousness, her memories were fuzzy. She could picture being outside the apartment and going home. But upon waking the next morning, she discovered she was wearing a different shirt than she'd had on the previous day and her panties were gone. Moreover, she was suffering from vaginal pain severe enough that she'd sought medical help.

The report doesn't say the teens were in the area to attend the 4/20 rally. But the McDonalds in question was only blocks away from the festivities -- and the event is specifically mentioned later in the context of the party, where both drinking and marijuana smoking is said to have taken place.

More details emerged over the next day or so. The apartment was pinned down to the 2300 block of Broadway. In addition, the individuals in question are also said to have stopped to buy some booze at Joe's Liquors, located at 2644 Larimer Street.

One more key piece of information: On April 19, cops had been called to a unit in the Broadway apartment complex on a report of a loud party. At that time, officers had interviewed and cleared a trio of men, including Joseph Baca and Alexander Fernandez .

The latter's middle name is "Leo," and that proved key. One of the teens remembered someone named Leo, and after being shown a photo of Fernandez, she immediately identified him.

She also said she'd seen the other teen making out with one of the males and heading into a room -- although she didn't know what happened inside it.

Continue for more about the child-sex-assault arrest of Joseph Baca, including more photos and the arrest report. Based on these accounts, as well as a sit-down with a female witness, who said one of the teens had been so drunk she'd vomited, the investigating officers recommended warrants be written out for Baca and Fernandez on an allegation of contributing to the delinquency of minors.

By early May, Baca had been arrested on this accusation. But while he confirmed that he lived at the apartment and had been present during a party following the "4/20 smoke out," which he'd attended, he denied having gone to the liquor store to buy the alcohol or having sex with anyone that night.

In the absence of additional evidence, the case against Baca was dropped. But it would return to life nearly four years later.

In January, the Denver District Attorney's Office reveals that Baca was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery. At that time, a DNA sample was taken. A month or two later, Baca's DNA was entered into the Denver Crime Lab system, and it scored a match with the material collected on a vaginal swab back in April 2010.

Following the DNA hit, Baca was arrested and gifted with a $50,000 bond -- and he's now been formally charged by the Denver DA with one count of sexual assault on a child. He's scheduled to appear in Denver County Court for a preliminary hearing on April 16.

Here's a larger look at Baca's mug shot, followed by the aforementioned arrest report.

Joseph Baca Arrest Affidavit

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa May 2013: "Dony Salazar's DNA ties him to rape a month before he stabbed a pregnant woman."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts