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Jury acquits Martinez of all charges

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By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos resident Carlos Martinez, 31, was declared not guilty of all counts Thursday on charges stemming from a brief sexual encounter he had with another employee at the Chevron gas station roughly 2-1/2 years ago.
The charges included one count of false imprisonment and three counts of criminal sexual penetration.
It was an intense four days of trial and testimony for Martinez, a Los Alamos resident who was accused by a co-worker of the crimes during an overnight shift at the Trinity Drive Chevron station March 7-8, 2013.
After knowing each other for two days, the two decided to have a sexual encounter inside the station’s walk-in freezer. That brief encounter, where Martinez received oral sex twice and attempted intercourse once, hung over his head until Thursday.
Four days after the encounter, the woman went to police and filed a complaint against Martinez.
Thursday afternoon, Martinez put his head in his hands and briefly cried tears of relief as a jury of his peers declared him not guilty on all counts.
Throughout his trial, jurors heard testimony from the woman, sexual assault experts, police officers and finally, from Martinez himself, who did not hold back his feelings during his testimony, frequently raising his voice and trying to establish eye contact with the jurors as he declared his innocence as he told his side of what happened that night.
The first time he met her, he told his defense lawyer that they probably talked for “maybe four hours” at the store as they worked, adding “there is not much to do on the graveyard shift.”
According to Martinez, they both seemed to hit it off with each other, because soon, those conversations turned sexual and the two began to flirt with each other. An hour and a half before their shift ended, the two decided they were going to have sex with each other.
“She would tell me that I was very attractive, that she couldn’t believe someone as attractive as me was talking to her, things like that,” Martinez said, when his defense attorney, Paul Branch, questioned him further about what he meant. He also said that he would return the compliments, because he sensed she had a low sense of self-esteem.
“I would tell her that she’s pretty and reassure her, things like that,” Martinez added, saying he thought he made a friend that night. “She liked the compliments. They made her feel good, and I thought we were becoming friends.”
At one point, he said the two talked of future plans, and he recounted that when he said he would be leaving Los Alamos soon and moving to California.
“She invited herself. She wanted to go with me,” Martinez said. He told the woman not to tell management, that she would do that himself.
Martinez said he was surprised when the next night, his manager confronted him with his plans for leaving, implying to the jury that his “new friend” told on him.
He also said his co-worker seemed mad at him. It was later revealed that Martinez’s long-distance girlfriend called the store looking for him.
When Martinez tried to explain the situation, she apparently became even more upset, so much so, Martinez said, he eventually told the co-worker that it was not her girlfriend but his sister.
But from then on, he said, things were rocky between the two and she seemed disappointed with this new development.
Martinez said he tried to cheer her up, but she called management and said she wanted to leave the shift, declaring to Martinez, “I knew you didn’t like me.”
Eventually though, the two patched things up, after Martinez again told her that it was his sister that was on the phone. They became friendly again and began talking about having sex with each other again, and that’s when they decided to have sex in the store’s walk-in cooler, where they could be alerted in time if customers came through the door.
The surveillance tape played at the trial showed the woman following Martinez into the cooler.
Martinez said the only thing she was hesitant about was getting caught.
When describing the actual act, Martinez was very open and detailed, adding that the sex was also consensual.
Things were fine after the act, until Martinez joked to her about telling the manager they had sex in the cooler. That’s when her demeanor changed, Martinez said, saying she suddenly became worried about losing her job and that she wanted to quit, even though Martinez assured her that he was only joking.
“She then turned to me and said ‘you better not tell anybody,’” Martinez said.
Martinez changed the topic by talking about his plans for California to cheer her up again, but that went sour, too, once he broke the news she couldn’t come with him.
“She didn’t scream, she didn’t argue, but I knew I had hurt her feelings when I let her know,” he said to the jury.
When Assistant District Attorney Eran Sharon cross-examined Martinez about the “sexual tension” and the “buildup” between them, and who initiated it, Martinez said, “She did, by fishing for compliments.”
When Sharon asked “do you usually give compliments you just met within the first couple of hours?” Martinez said he did.
During one part of the cross-examination by Sharon, Sharon asked Martinez if at any time did she ever refuse sex. “There were instances you made advances and she said ‘no,’ is that right?”
“No,” Martinez answered, adding that “when she said no, we were in the hallway, and there wasn’t a camera there. Anything you saw on the videos, like in the cooler, she never said no,” Martinez said, then turning to the jury and exclaiming she “never said no there.”
That part of the testimony was important, because the false imprisonment charge stemmed from whether Martinez kept the woman in the cooler with him involuntarily, even if briefly.
That charge alone carried an 18-month prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. For the criminal penetration charges, Martinez was facing up to nine years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
At one point, Sharon brought up a point in a videotape when Martinez was being interrogated by police, when Martinez, called the woman he had sex with a “psychopath.”
“That is correct,” Martinez answered in front of the jury. “Because in my opinion she is a psychopath… falsely accusing me and having me here testifying in front of these people two and a half years later after being on house arrest for 19 months. She’s a psychopath.”
However, the prosecution kept up the attack, with lead prosecutor Kent Wahlquist said Martinez was someone who would not take ‘no’ for answer.
“The defendant was persuasive, and got to the ‘yes.’ He wouldn’t take no for an answer and he got to that yes,” he told the jury during closing arguments. Wahlquist also attacked Martinez version of events.
“You heard the testimony of (the woman). She took the stand, and testified to you. She couldn’t remember the exact year, it’s been a while… she told you what happened to her. Just twice she worked with the defendant,” he said, adding that she told the jurors how uncomfortable she was with Martinez’s line of questioning.
In his closing argument, Branch took a picture of Marilyn Monroe down from the wall and walked slowly toward the jury with it in his hands while still talking. He then stopped in front of the jury, where the picture had somehow changed into Albert Einstein.
“Sometimes things at a distance may look one way, but upon closer examination, the entire thing changes, and it’s something completely different. Now, this is not just some cheap trick, that’s the way cases work, and that’s what’s happening here today.
Branch then paraphrased a line from a poem by Robert Frost called “The Secret Sits.”
“We all sit around in a circle and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.”
Branch characterized the interaction between Martinez and his co-worker as a biological phenomenon as old as mankind itself.
“Homo sapiens only have about 200,000 years of biological history to know that men are sexual opportunists, it’s built into our structure,” Branch said. “Sex is a biological imperative…trying to get into a woman’s pants as long as there have been pants. It’s not immoral to engage in consenting sex with a consenting partner. It’s inappropriate, definitely at the workplace, but it’s not illegal.
The jury apparently agreed, setting Martinez free from his 2-1/2 year ordeal. Cries of relief from Martinez, as well as his supporters were heard shortly after the verdict was read.