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MEEKER I Paul Martin pleaded guilty to third-degree assault of domestic violence against his wife and was given a two-year deferred sentence Monday.
“You understand, you are telling the court you are guilty of the offense?” Judge Laurie Nobel of Rangely asked. “Is this what you want to do?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Martin said during the municipal court hearing.
Martin’s attorney Joe Fennessy said the deferred sentence “means unsupervised probation … in layman’s terms. If you stay out of trouble, the crime can go away. … You plead guilty, but the final judgment is suspended until the two years is up.”
If Martin completes the conditions of the deferred judgment, which includes 36 sessions of court-ordered domestic violence counseling, his record will be cleared.
“The court doesn’t remember your offense,” the judge told Martin.
Fennessy, Martin’s attorney, said his client has already started attending domestic violence sessions, which is a standard order in domestic violence cases. Martin also underwent a risk assessment by a clinical psychologist.
“Though future episodes of violence cannot be predicted with a high degree of certainty, it is my impression that the risk of threat from Mr. Martin, at this time, is minimal,” said John Gustavson, the psychologist who conducted the assessment. “It is my further opinion that the greater good would be served by allowing him to have ongoing and unfettered contact with his wife and family. Ms. Martin indicated to me that this is her preference, as well, that she has no concerns for her safety, and that she would like her husband to remain in the home.”
Attorney Fennessy said of the risk assessment, “That’s a normal thing … They just check things out … to feel if it’s safe for people to get together again.”
Meeker Police Chief Bob Hervey responded to a 911 call from the Martin home that was received shortly before 5 a.m. on Jan. 19. Vanessa Martin told Hervey she didn’t want her husband arrested because he is a minister and said she wanted to take the couple’s two children to Grand Junction for the day, according to the affidavit.
“She told me that ‘he struck me and I struck him,’” Phil Walter, an investigator for the district attorney’s office, reported from his interview with Vanessa Martin.
In Walter’s report, he said “(Police Chief) Hervey noted that he (Paul Martin) had scratch marks on the left side of his neck” and “the left side of (Vanessa Martin’s) face was red and swollen.”
The Meeker Police Department initiated the investigation of the domestic violence case, but turned it over to the district attorney.
Soon after Vanessa Martin and her two children left town on the morning of Jan. 19, around 7 a.m., the minivan Vanessa Martin was driving slid out of control on Highway 13, about a mile outside of Meeker, and collided with an oncoming vehicle. Excessive speed for the road conditions was cited as a factor in the accident report. There was snow and ice on the road that morning.
Both of the Martins’ children were airlifted to hospitals — Alahna Martin was transported to Denver and Stone Martin was taken to Grand Junction, because doctors didn’t know if he would survive the longer-distance flight to Denver.
Stone Martin died the following day of injuries he sustained in the crash. He would have celebrated his 10th birthday April 21. Alahna Martin, 12, spent about three weeks in the hospital. She returned home Feb. 10.
Paul and Vanessa Martin appeared in court together Monday.
Asked by the judge if she wanted to make a comment, Vanessa Martin said, “Paul and I are ready to move beyond that day.”
Paul Martin, when asked by the judge if he wanted to comment, said, “I take full responsibility for my actions that day … and, like Vanessa, I want us to move on and learn from our mistakes.”
At the conclusion of the proceedings, Judge Noble reviewed the stipulations of the deferred sentence — set to end April 12, 2012 — and scheduled provider reviews to follow up on compliance with the domestic counseling sessions.
“And good luck,” the judge said.