TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Testimony in the federal case of a Tallahassee man charged with making a threat to kidnap and harm protestors at the Florida State Capitol painted the 33-year-old as either a dangerous extremist or a loose cannon who got a little overzealous online.
The FBI arrested Daniel Baker last week after authorities say he circulated a flyer on and offline calling for right-wing protesters to be trapped inside the Capitol. In court, the bureau said Baker got on their radar after returning from fighting the Syrian government.
In a video statement, Lawrence Keefe, U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Northern District, said Baker’s arrest sent a message. “We will take all appropriate actions against credible threats,” Keefe said.
Federal prosecutors argued that Baker’s written threats and a decade of being homeless were reasons to keep him behind bars, which clashed with the portrait of the man described by his roommate, friend and landlord as a good, albeit hapless, individual.
“He’s just a joy to be around,” said Suzanna Matthews, Baker’s landlord. “He’s bright, he’s energetic, he’s an entrepreneur. He’s volunteering for all kinds of things in the community. He’s the kind of person we need more of.”
“He’s an eccentrically spoken person, so I would take it all with a grain of salt,” Desiree Dattis, Baker’s friend, added.
Dattis, a teacher and advocate for the homeless, first met Baker a decade ago. Eventually, she let him camp in her backyard for a year.
“He’s a genuinely a nice guy and this just a lot of talk,” Dattis said.
Baker’s roommate, Eric Champagne, testified that Baker did not wish to hurt anyone.
“The FBI themselves were warning about this and I think he took the FBI warning seriously and I think he was just trying to protect his neighbors,” Champagne said.
Baker’s public defender acknowledged Baker could be shaky but said he would benefit from mental health treatment if released.
The judge did not rule from the bench and said a written order would be forthcoming.