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Martin jury recommends 580 years

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Jury finds Martin guilty on 31 felony charges

By Jonna Spelbring Priester

A Henry County jury has recommended Joseph David Martin, 39, be sentenced to 580 years in prison. Circuit Court Judge Karen Conrad will formally sentence Martin on June 25.

On Wednesday, April 24, the jury found Martin guilty on each of the 31 felony charges he was facing: 13 counts of 1st degree unlawful transaction with a minor, illegal sex act, victim under 16; 1 count of 1st degree unlawful transaction with a minor, illegal sex act, victim under 18; use of a minor under age 16 in a sexual performance; 14 counts of incest, forcible compulsion, victim incapable of consent or under the age of 18; and one count each of complicity to tampering with a witness and complicity to tampering with physical evidence.

As Circuit Court Judge Karen Conrad read the verdicts, Martin rubbed his face with his hands, not looking up.

The jury returned with the verdict in just three hours, and took 90 minutes to make their sentencing recommendation.

Thursday, while Conrad read the jury’s recommendation, the father of Martin’s victim nodded his head in agreement. Martin stared straight ahead at times, at the defense table.

The victim’s father and another family member, as well as the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s team, thanked each juror as they filed out of the courtroom.

The father hugged the Commonwealth’s victim’s advocate, and as he made his way down the steps wondered just how much time the jury had just recommended.

“I wasn’t keeping up, how many years was that?”

Almost 600. But by state law, Martin will serve no more than 70 years and would be eligible for parole in 20.

If he serves the 85 percent dictated by state law for violent crimes — which the unlawful transaction and use of a minor charges are considered to be — and factoring in the 18 months he has been in jail since his arrest, Martin could be 97 before he is released.

Two masked men

The jury’s decision indicated they weren’t swayed by Martin’s defense that he lied about having a three-year sexual ‘relationship’ with a minor female relative in an effort to protect his family.

On April 23, Martin told the jury that he had been confronted by two masked men by the creek near his home in September 2011. The men, he said, threatened the lives of his wife and children if he didn’t comply with their demand by Nov. 1, 2011. Martin’s attorney, Harley Blankenship, hinted at the masked-men defense in his opening statements, when he said that “the proof will be that David lied, then he retracted (his confession). That he did that because he thought it was absolutely necessary to protect his (family).”

While on the witness stand, a crying Martin told Blankenship that he told his mother about the incident. The masked men, he said, told him he was being watched. Because of that, Martin said he did not tell the police, and instead came up with a story about the inappropriate relationship — which he claimed the victim knew about and went along with, and that when the victim turned 18, she would recant.

“I wrote her a four-page story and then a week before, she didn’t want to do it,” Martin said. That written story was never found, and Martin said he talked with the victim “three or four times” about the story.

Martin later told the story to Pastor James Maroney, who testified on April 17, counting on the pastor to report it. Maroney reported the story to social worker Brittany Piascik, who set in motion the investigation that resulted in Martin’s arrest.

“I knew he would turn it in, and I didn’t try to stop him from reporting it,” Martin told the jury. When Blankenship asked Martin what he thought would happen once “the story” was reported, Martin said he thought he might get five or six months of probation.

But on cross examination, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Berry Baxter questioned the validity of the theory: If the men approached Martin in 2011, why did the victim tell Martin’s wife, Tina, about the sexual relationship in 2009, and again in 2010? That, Martin claimed, was part of the story, too.

Baxter hammered Martin on the story. “You testified that you lied to Brittany (Piascik), Brother (James) Maroney, his wife, Trooper (Tim) Moore, and your mother, so now we are supposed to believe you now?” Baxter asked.

“All I can say is that it is true,” Martin replied, saying he’d never even told his wife about the story.

Martin claimed he didn’t tell Moore about the story when he was interviewed and arrested at Post 5, because he “feared that they would visit us,” even though, at that point, he had met the demands of the purported masked men.

Under cross-examination, Martin told Baxter that “I did make myself cry,” and that “at this time still” he couldn’t think of a better way to comply with the demands of the masked men.

During his closing arguments, Baxter lambasted “the plan,” telling the jury the story was “lies trying to manipulate you.”

He pointed out that the only witness the defense called was the defendant himself, “with a story about masked men. A man who admitted… that he lied repeatedly.”

The story of the masked men, Baxter said in his closing “is a fantasy that did not happen.”

He went on to speculate that ‘the plan’ likely didn’t exist until Dec. 8, 2011 — the day Martin was initially indicted.

The confession

On Oct. 23, 2011, Martin arrived at Kentucky State Police Post 5 with a 10-page, handwritten confession, outlining the nature of the abuse with which he later was charged.

“When (the victim) was 13, something really bad happened,” his confession letter began. He said that the first incident of sexual contact with the victim began in a bathroom, when the victim walked in on Martin while he was masturbating.

That was corroborated in testimony by Pastor James Maroney, Maroney’s wife Gayla and the victim.

While Martin outlined several acts with the victim, he also claimed to have had several opportunities to engage in sexual activity with other underage females. He specifically pointed out five and described them as flirting with him or coming on to him, and said that he rejected each one.

In the written confession, he expresses bewilderment about why the victim was different.

“I wondered why all of this was happening,” he wrote. In another section, he wrote “I am not a pedophile. I just don’t understand what happened.”

Later, after writing that the victim sought him out, “after a few months, I would go to her.”

He also wrote that when the victim told his wife, he and the victim “went about six months without having sex.”

And further into the written confession, he blames the victim. “It was (the victim’s) fault,” and adds later “I would kill anyone who would do what I did.”

But he also expresses a belief that neither he nor the victim should be punished, and adds “I have to be with my family to lead them to Heaven.”

During the videotaped confession, Martin starts off tearfully, and regains his composure as he tells Detective Tim Moore about the abuse, and said that “I was taking care of her needs so she wouldn’t go out there,” and get pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted disease.

Martin also claims in his confession letter that “I am not a pedophile, I just don’t understand what happened,” a claim the prosecution attempted to dismantle with the declaration that about 100 images of child pornography were found on Martin’s desktop computer.

The computer hard drives

Martin, Blankenship argued, was worried that investigators would find illegally downloaded music on two external hard drives.

But what investigators ultimately found included about 100 images of pornography involving children. For that, Baxter revealed in a hearing prior to the trial, the U.S. Attorney’s office likely would be filing charges.

The images themselves were not admitted as evidence. Still, through questioning by Blankenship, Martin insinuated that someone else downloaded the pictures.

In closing

During his closing statements, Blankenship argued that if Martin was guilty of anything, it was filing a false police report—an assertion based on the Masked Men defense.

“I didn’t believe that this man had (sex) with a 13 year old 300 times, and I don’t believe you do,” he said to the jury. “I don’t believe the things he had said and I believe what he did was to protect his family.

“Lying is not a sex crime,” he said.

Later, Blankenship decried the computer hard drive evidence as a charade, and that his client was merely trying to save his music. “There is a circumstantial smear,” he told the jury.

But he also told the jury that he and they were “in the middle of two sides that believe the ends justify the means,” and “in between is reasonable doubt.”

Baxter bristled at that notion as he began his closing statement, saying “the Commonwealth is not vengeful. He went on to thank the jury for their time, not just on the Commonwealth’s behalf, but on the victim’s behalf.

“I submit to you that the Commonwealth has made its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said, before discussing Martin’s ‘plan.’

“Yesterday, we heard about something nobody in this room knew about,” he said. “Two masked men, one tall, one short, a shotgun and a plan (Martin) hatched with (the victim).”

He emphatically labeled the story a “fantasy that did not happen.”

During her time on the stand the victim, he said, would look only at Commonwealth’s Attorney Courtney Baxter. The victim “would not look at the man with whom she had a sexual relationship for three and a half years.”

The verdict

The jury returned their verdict in three hours. That was a relatively quick deliberation considering the volume of instructions relating to the 31 felony counts the defendant was facing.

While the jury was out, attorneys and spectators found lunch, while the defendant sat quietly at the defense table. At times, he laid forward on the table, at others, he propped himself up on his elbows, praying.

After the verdict was announced, Blankenship asked one question of the jury: “So say you all?” They nodded their assent.

The victim’s father was in the courtroom; Martin’s family — present during testimony the day before, was not.

The penalty

Thursday, April 25, marked the penalty phase of the trial.

The jurors heard from Matt Hudson, an officer within the state Department of Probation and Parole, who explained the possible sentences and their complexity.

The charges in the first indictment, Hudson said, were all considered violent. In those charges, the defendant would be required to serve 85 percent of whatever sentence he received before being eligible for parole.

For the nonviolent offenses, including the incest charges, he would be required to serve just 20 percent. That said, he told the jury, the violent offenses would take precedent.

Further, regardless of whatever punishment the jury recommended, he said, Martin would be eligible for parole, by state law, after 20 years. “He cannot be refused an opportunity to see the parole board beyond 20 years,” Hudson said.

The maximum he could be sentenced to, regardless of the jury’s recommendation, would be 70 years — effectively a life sentence.

Now convicted of sex crimes, Martin also will have to undergo a sex offender risk assessment. He also will be required to register as a lifetime sex offender.

If paroled, or even upon release after serving out his sentence, Martin would undergo further supervision, which Hudson referred to as “post incarceration supervision,” a form of mandatory parole. He would be required to complete sex offender assessment and treatment.

Blankenship called two character witnesses for Martin — an aunt and a pastor.

The defense attorney urged the jury to “look into Martin’s soul,” and be lenient.

Delivering the maximum sentence — 580 years — would be a “terrible burden on the state.”

By contrast, the minimum sentence recommendation would have been 10 years — the top range for the class B felonies. By state law, he would have been eligible for release or to see the parole board in seven years.

Regardless of the term, he indicated, Martin would not admit to having committed a sex offense. Sex offenders, he noted “are treated differently in prison. They’re treated differently by friends and family.”

He argued that recommending the maximum sentence “it’s not punishment, it’s vengeance.”

“Comes up with a number that says, ‘okay, we know you want to see your children’,” he said. “Do the 10s, and run them concurrently.”

Blankenship curiously mentioned that the jury “might have an axe to grind,” regarding the tampering charges. Baxter zeroed in on that comment.

“We’re here for one reason and one reason only,” he said, pointing toward the defendant. “We’re here because of the conduct of this man.”

For three years, he said, the victim endured “sex acts with this man,” who “had one chance to do the right thing. And he didn’t.”

As Baxter spoke, the victim’s father sat in the gallery, his head down, shoulders shaking.

“How is it that (Martin) has earned mercy from you?” Baxter asked the jury. “Because that’s what he’s asking you for. I think you need to send a message to this man.”

Acknowledging that Martin would spend no more than 70 years, maximum, in prison regardless of the jury’s recommendation, Baxter asked  for just that. 290 years on the first indictment, 280 years on the second indictment, and 10 on the third indictment, all served consecutively.

Taking up Blankenship’s comment about looking into the defendant’s soul, Baxter was pointed. “What about (the victim’s) soul?”

When the jury came back, the recommendation was so strong, Conrad asked the jury if they indeed intended the sentencing recommendations to be concurrent, and the jurors indicated that was their intent.

As the years added up, there was little reaction from the defendant.

Once Conrad was finished, Blankenship requested that the jury be polled. Each said they supported the recommendation.

And with that, the jury sent their message to Martin — he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Conrad will conduct formal sentencing on June 25, where she will sentence Martin to the 70 year maximum allowed by law.

Reporter Brad Bowman contributed to this report.