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Judicial CP - March 2005
Tribune Chronicle, Warren, Ohio, 2 March 2005
Martin gets no jail time
By Christopher Bobby
WARREN - A judge ignored a prosecutor's recommendation and sentenced former Fowler police Chief James Martin to two years probation and ordered him to pay a $500 fine and perform 120 hours of community service.
The assistant prosecutor had requested a short jail term for Martin, who had been convicted of misdemeanors connected with an unauthorized diversion program. A weeklong trial focused on corporal punishment and the paddlings that several teenage boys and young men agreed to in order to avoid court prosecution.
Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan called the trial perhaps the most peculiar case he has ever heard. But the judge made it clear that paddling was inappropriate.
"You were trusted because you were respected. Some might say that (paddling) would be appropriate for you in this case. But that would make light of the proceeding. I'm convinced you learned a lesson, considering everything presented in the case," Logan told Martin.
Jurors deliberated about 17 hours over the verdict in the criminal case.
Martin, the former Fowler chief and Howland police captain, was found guilty Feb. 2 on 12 counts of using a sham legal process, and the jury was split on dereliction of duty charges, finding him guilty on six counts and innocent on the other six.
Martin was found innocent on 11 of 12 counts of assault, with the jury hung on the remaining assault charge. He also was found innocent of the only felony charge, theft in office, which accused Martin of stealing Howland Township property in the form of outdated diversion program files from the 1970s and 1908s.
Assistant Prosecutor David Toepfer said the defense has continued to deny guilt even after the jury found the 18 guilty verdicts.
"Good intentions don't overshadow, the defendant keeping (the diversion program) a secret from some police and township trustees. He was told to stop once and he didn't. The defendant's behavior has given a black eye to law enforcement in Trumbull County and to the badge he wore on his chest," Toepfer said.
Martin's attorney, Dominic Vitantonio, had argued in motions that since his client was found innocent of assault charges, the sham legal process charges should be dismissed. However, Logan ruled in favor of the prosecution.
Vitantonio said, "This was a very unusual case. From the start of the case, I got calls and letters supporting Jim Martin. I see all pros and no cons. He has been helping kids for 30 years. Even jurors said the kids deserved what they got."
He said he plans to appeal the 18 guilty verdicts out of what started out as a 52-count indictment.
Martin, when asked why he openly showed no remorse, said he "felt remorse for the past 10 months. This has been devastating."
Martin said he will continue part-time work with a private company and continue to be active in his church.
"I guess I'm old-school," he said, when asked if litigation nowadays prevents more extreme measures of punishment.
"I was trying to help these kids and the program was effective. If I thought I was breaking the law, I wouldn't have done it," Martin said.
Martin still faces some civil litigation from the diversion program participants and their families who were paraded into the courtroom during the criminal case.
Several of the cases in federal court have been dismissed, but that dismissal is being appealed.
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