Sheriff accused in murder scheme urged to resign

AP News
Posted: Jan 05, 2010 6:15 PM

Federal charges that the longtime sheriff of Gallatin County in southern Illinois sold marijuana while in uniform seemed odd enough to county board chairman Randy Drone. But new allegations the sheriff plotted from jail to have someone killed made the case even stranger.

"Is it greed? Ignorance? I don't know," Drone said Tuesday before Sheriff Raymond Martin's first court appearance with his wife and 20-year-old son, who also are charged in the murder-for-hire scheme. "Arrogance _ maybe that's it. Thinking he's so above the law he could actually get away with this.

"But getting rearrested while still in jail? That's something."

Authorities arrested Martin on the latest charges Saturday in Murphysboro, where he has spent much of his time since May, when he was hauled away in handcuffs from his office 60 miles away.

His 36-year-old wife, Christina Martin, and son Cody Martin also were arrested Saturday when they came to visit him at the Jackson County jail.

The three participated in Tuesday's brief court hearing by closed-circuit television from the jail. A judge declined Raymond Martin's request for a public defender, deciding the family's $80,000-a-year household income could cover an attorney.

Christina Martin's attorney, Paul Christenson, waved off reporters' questions afterward, saying he hadn't yet seen any of the police files. Cody Martin was granted a public defender.

Each remains jailed on $1 million bond, scheduled for a preliminary hearing Jan. 26. The most serious of the charges against them carries up to 40 years in prison.

Court records don't say who the three plotted to kill, and no indication was given in court. Michael Wepsiec, the state's attorney in Jackson County, who is handling the case, refused to discuss the matter. A Jackson County sheriff's spokesman declined to comment, and a message left with the U.S. Attorney's Office in southern Illinois was not immediately returned.

The Martins did not enter pleas Tuesday. Raymond Martin has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, which accuse him of selling marijuana _ often while on duty.

He remains sheriff, drawing his more than $40,400-a-year salary, although one of his deputies has been named interim sheriff and his seat is up for election this year. But Drone hopes Martin's days as sheriff will end before then: Gallatin County's governing board sent the jailed man a letter Tuesday, urging him to resign, he said.

"Personally, I think he is just an absolute embarrassment to the county," Drone said.

Martin, a Democrat re-elected four times, had been the law for nearly 20 years in the county when drug investigators hauled him away from his office in Shawneetown, a burg with little more than a courthouse, a couple of convenience stores and Rudy's barbecue restaurant.

Federal prosecutors charged him with three counts of distributing marijuana, some seized by his own deputies, and two counts of carrying a firearm _ his service weapon _ while trafficking drugs. Federal grand jurors indicted Martin on those charges months later, adding a count of plotting to deal pot.

Martin supplied a drug dealer and then threatened to kill him when the man said he wanted out, at least twice pulling his service revolver to press the point that making the dealer "disappear" would be "that easy," according to an affidavit by Drug Enforcement Administration agent Glenn Rountree.

The sheriff also pressured the dealer by saying he could "make up" a crime against him, Rountree wrote, and he pledged to use his power to shut down rival dealers.

Scared by Martin's threats, the dealer let authorities record his conversations with Martin over the next several weeks, Rountree said. Investigators later found more than $100,000 in a safe in Martin's home, as well as cash and drugs missing from evidence bags in Martin's office.