Complaint: Niles teens threatened to post video on FacebookPublished 6:15pm Thursday, May 12, 2011
By JESSICA SIEFF and KATIE ROHMAN
Niles residents Parnell Martin, Leon Murphy, Martise Washington and Trey Nichols, all 18, and Martell
Miller, 17, face a number of criminal charges stemming from a six-week police investigation including criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree — a felony with a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Four were arrested at 7:35 a.m. Thursday and one was arrested at his Niles home that day for their alleged involvement in forcing a female to have sex by threatening to post on Facebook a video of her having sex with one of the defendants. All defendants are lodged at the Berrien County Jail in lieu of a $150,000 bond.
Three female victims have been identified in this case after one reported the allegations to Niles police. The Star does not print the names of sexual abuse victims.
Four of the five defendants have been confirmed as students at NHS. The alleged acts took place around March 18. In Nichols’ case, the charges stemmed from January.
According to court documents obtained by the Star, the victim who made the report to police claims she was unknowingly videotaped having sex with Washington in Nichols’ bedroom. The video was reportedly located by police on Nichols’ laptop computer and cell phone.
According to the complaint, Nichols admitted to police he was responsible to setting up and recording the video of the victim and Washington. Two other separate videos of naked women were located on
Nichols’ cell phone; he claimed the women were previous girlfriends who were 17 years old at the time.
Records show the defendants told the victim they would post the sex video on Facebook if she did not perform or consent to sex with them, including vaginal, oral and digital sex. Some acts were allegedly forced on her; others she consented to in fear of the video being released.
All five defendants were arraigned Thursday via satellite feed.
Miller was overcome with emotion as the allegations against him were read aloud. He faces two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree; one count of extortion, a felony with a maximum 20-year sentence; and one count of possession of child sexually abusive material, a four-year felony.
Martin is being charged with one count of criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree; one count of extortion; and one count of possession of child sexually abusive material.
Washington faces one count of criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree; one count of extortion; one count of making, financing or arranging child sexually abusive material, a 20-year felony; and one count of surveillance, a two-year felony.
Murphy has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree; one count of extortion; and two counts of possession of child sexually abusive material. Records show pictures of a naked woman were also on his cell phone; Murphy claimed she was a girlfriend who was 16 years old at the time.
Nichols faces one count of criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree; three counts producing child sexually abusive material; one count of extortion; and three counts surveilling unclothed persons.
Family members and friends were present in the courtroom. During the arraignment, when asked if there was anything the magistrate, Robert Clark, should take into consideration prior to setting bond amounts, Washington said he was doing everything he could to get through high school and that he was also trying to take care of his grandmother at home.
Nichols also addressed Clark.
“I’m supposed to graduate in nine days,” he said. “With honors.”
Nichols said he also has a job, helps support his family and he has received a scholarship to attend Western Michigan University following graduation.
“I need to graduate high school,” he said. “I have a good future ahead of me.”
At the time of the arrests, Supt. Richard Weigel and Niles High School Principal Jim Knoll both said they were not informed of the charges pending against those arrested. Though police did have arrest warrants with them Thursday morning, Knoll said he was not able to read them.
“Some students that are high school students did something — not at the high school,” Weigel said, just hours after the arrests were made. “We don’t know what. And the police came by to pick them up.”
Knoll said he’d been given a call sometime prior to the events on Thursday that police were looking for the specific individuals.
“I didn’t know exactly when they were going to come,” he said. “I can tell you they were looking for five (individuals) and they took four from the school. (The students) were very cooperative, too.”
Millin said as far as he was concerned the investigation is complete, barring any new developments.
“We tried to do this very low-key,” Millin said, in regard to arresting the students at school. “Obviously they’re friends, they’re acquaintances, they know each other … because of age and any fear they might have of this investigation and its outcome we didn’t want that to happen and boys try to run or hide…”
Preliminary examinations and conferences for each of the five defendants are expected to be scheduled but there is no word yet on whether or not any of the five arraigned Thursday will be able to get out of jail prior to those dates.