Mistrial for school exec hired after sex abuse charges

AP News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2015 9:24 PM
Mistrial for school exec hired after sex abuse charges

DENVER (AP) — A judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case against a former Colorado school official who was hired by New Mexico's largest school district despite being charged with sexually abusing two young boys — a case that led the Albuquerque superintendent to resign.

The Denver jurors told the judge they could not reach a unanimous verdict in the case against Jason Martinez. Prosecutors said they would seek a retrial of Martinez on child sex assault charges.

Martinez worked for Denver Public Schools for 10 years, ending in 2012. He was arrested in Denver in 2013 and freed on bond conditions that included he stay in Colorado. Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Luis Valentino hired Martinez this year to head its instruction and technology division after the district failed to complete a background check.

The outcry over his hiring led Valentino to resign Aug. 31, just two months after getting the district's top job. He told reporters he was previously unaware of Martinez's legal problems. Martinez also quit his Albuquerque post in August, and a Denver judge increased his bail and ordered him to wear an ankle monitor pending trial.

The abuse allegations were not connected to Martinez's school employment in Colorado. Martinez was a close friend of the boys' families, and prosecutors allege he abused them during visits to his Denver home and on trips. Prosecutors said the children were targets for abuse because they came from broken homes.

Defense attorneys said the case was based on lies and inconsistencies. Martinez took the stand and tearfully denied the charges. His attorney Leonard Martinez told jurors the 6-year-old boy's mother coaxed him to lie about the abuse to keep her from getting in trouble with social services. The boys' relatives were all part of the scheme, Leonard Martinez said. The defendant and his lawyer are not related.

The accusations arose after the son of a man Jason Martinez adopted came to stay with him in Denver in May 2013. Jason Martinez had confronted the boy's mother because he was concerned about the boy's filthy living conditions back home. The child was 6 at the time.

After the visit, the boy told his mother that Jason Martinez abused him, prosecutors said. The second boy then came forward with similar accusations.

Jason Martinez declined to comment after Monday's announcement by the jury, which deliberated for about 2 ½ days. Leonard Martinez said he was disappointed the jury couldn't find his client not guilty.