Martise Washington found guilty on all charges
NILES, Mich. – Martise Washington conveyed no emotion as he heard the word “guilty” seven times Thursday evening. After four days in court, the jury took just one hour to find Washington guilty of three counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of third degree criminal sexual conduct, extortion, possession of child sexually abusive material and surveillance of an unclad individual.
Five Niles teenagers are accused of forcing a 17-year-old girl into sex by threatening to post a sex tape with her in it on Facebook. Washington was the first of the five to go to trial. After the verdict he was taken to the Berrien County Jail to await sentencing on December 12th.
“I’m sad for the young man,” said James Jesse, Washington’s Attorney, after court adjourned. “You heard the evidence, it was pretty overwhelming, and the letters didn’t help any.”
The letters Jesse referred to were written by Washington to Judge Scott Schofield and Eugen Davenport, a witness and friend of Washington’s who gave statements to police and testified in court. In the letter to Judge Schofield, Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli claimed Washington admitted to the crime. In the letter to Davenport, Pierangeli claimed Washington tried to convince Davenport to tell Washington’s version of the incident; which Davenport testified he refused to do because Washington’s version was false.
But, James Jesse said another major reason for Washington being found guilty was Washington’s testimony in court. Washington was advised to take plea agreements before trial and then during the trial he was also advised not to testify.
“We talked about that and he felt he wanted to tell his story and he had to opportunity to do that,” Jesse explained. “Unfortunately it was not the right decision to make.”
On the witness stand, Washington explained that he felt he hadn’t committed a crime. That didn’t feel he had forced the girl into sex and that he believed she knew that he was recording he and her having sex on March 14th. That recording is what was allegedly used by Washington and others to force her into sex. But, getting his chance to tell his story on the witness stand meant he also had to face cross examination by the prosecution.
Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli actually held the requirements to meet some of the charges in front of Washington, asking him to verify that he’d committed acts that met the burden of proof to find him guilty. Washington admitted to having sex with the victim, whom he said he knew was under the age of consent, and recording it, and admonition that he’d made and possessed child pornography.
Pierangeli also asked how and why two victims, one who he’d made the sex tape with and another who came forward after his arrest claiming that he’d coerced her into sex by threatening to post “dirty” photos on Facebook, would accuse him of the same crime. In court, both victims testified that they went to different schools, didn’t know each other and had never spoken to each other. Washington said it was a “coincidence.”
“That big a coincidence would make you very, very, very unlucky wouldn’t it?” Pierangeli asked in court. “About the most unlucky man, not only in Berrien County, but in probably the US, Michigan and the world.”
Pierangeli also asked if Washington had considered that maybe he wasn’t unlucky, but guilty. Washington replied, “no.”
But, the jury ruled that Washington was indeed guilty despite hearing what he had to say in court.
“He comes from a very difficult background,” James Jesse explained.
In court Washington explained that he never knew his father and his mother was deemed unfit to raise him. He also explained that he spent time in juvenile detention on drug charges. But, he said he had worked to better himself when he moved to Niles and made good progress in school.
“I think, deep down, he knew that there was a strong possibility he’d be convicted. But, he still wanted to tell his story,” Jesse explained.
Now, Washington has been convicted and awaits his sentencing on December 12th. He faces a possible life sentence. But, James Jesse said he believed, based on his experience as an attorney, Washington will be sentenced to 11-years in prison.