Victim testifies in sex casePublished 11:49pm Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Martell Miller, 17, Parnell Martin and Martise Washington, both 18 — all held in police custody since last month on a multitude of charges, including criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree — faced their accuser Wednesday in what was a crowded Berrien County courtroom in St. Joseph.
At the start of proceedings, prosecutor Steve Pierangeli advised Judge Scott Schofield: “There were offers made” to each of the three defendants, and he said those offers would be taken off the table “as soon as I call my first witness.”
One by one, Miller, Martin and Washington rejected the prosecution’s previous offers.
Pierangeli also added charges to the already numerous ones racked up against each of the defendants.
Washington now faces two additional counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and one additional count of third degree criminal sexual conduct. Martin is being charged with an additional count of third degree criminal sexual conduct and Miller will have two additional counts of third degree criminal sexual conduct added to his charges.
Testimony on Wednesday centered around an incident that began around March 14, when the victim alleges she was unknowingly recorded having sex with Washington. Following, the victim testified she was allegedly threatened with the video of she and Washington and subsequently engaged in numerous sex acts with Miller, Martin and Leon Murphy, 18, who took a plea deal with the prosecution prior.
Called first to the stand was Det. Richard Krueger of the Niles City Police Department, who said he conducted interviews with the victim and the suspects in the case after the initial complaint was made to police.
Krueger testified that upon questioning Washington about the initial complaint, he requested to see the defendant’s cell phone. The phone was turned over to Krueger, and he found stored in the cell phone’s media files a video of Washington and the victim having sex.
When asked how the video got on his cell phone, Krueger testified: “He (Washington) advised … he was responsible for making that video and putting it on his phone.”
Washington’s attorney, Jim Jesse, asked the detective to describe what was on the video.
“The video is of Mr. Washington and (the victim) stepping into a bedroom, it appears the video is being set up on a table facing the bed …”
Krueger said as the video continues, Washington and the victim are seen talking, removing their clothes, engaging in sexual intercourse and then putting their clothes back on.
Upon questioning by the defense, Krueger said it appeared the victim was not forced into the sex with Washington and that the act appeared consensual.
Washington, Krueger testified, walks out of the shot of the camera as the victim puts her clothes back. He said it appeared the victim was not aware she was being filmed but he also could not testify as to who turned the video off.
The second witness to take the stand in the three-hour long proceeding was the victim.
Speaking slowly and softly, the now 18-year-old female told the court she met Washington at a basketball game in January and began communicating with him on Facebook and via text messaging.
It was March 11, she said, when she and Washington were at the home of Trey Nichols. Nichols was also arrested in May and is facing numerous charges; he is expected to appear in court for his own pre-examination today.
The victim testified she and Washington, a few others and Nichols all went upstairs to Nichols’ bedroom.
“They were messing around with his laptop,” she said. “And like, hooking up a camera, I guess.”
“Did you know that at the time?” Pierangeli asked her.
“No,” she said. “I did not.”
Nichols allegedly took the laptop with him and she and Washington were left alone in the bedroom.
“We started just, like doing stuff with each other and talking and then we had sex. And after we were done, Trey came back upstairs,” she said.
She testified the sex with Washington was consensual.
Upon questioning, the victim reiterated she did not know she had been filmed until approximately four days later, when she received a text message from Murphy.
“(Murphy) texted me saying ‘hi boo’ and that he was watching a video of me. I didn’t know what he was talking about,” she said.
When she found out, she asked Murphy to delete it.
“I asked him to be mature about it,” the victim said. The victim also said she’d offered to give him money to keep him from posting the video on Facebook.
“He said that he’d put it on Facebook if I didn’t (perform oral sex on him),” she said. “I was scared. I didn’t want that to go on Facebook and was just in shock. Everybody goes on Facebook. If everybody views it and as far as I know they could have ‘tagged’ people — everyone could have had it by then.
“It would hurt my reputation,” she continued. “And make me look like some girl who does all this kind of stuff.”
Murphy, she said, refused any money and continued to threaten her, saying he almost had the video uploaded.
“I gave in,” she said. “And he said he’d go pick me up and I said, just him. Nobody else.”
But when Murphy arrived, the victim said he was with Washington and Martin.
What happened after, she said, was a round of threats followed by a number of sexual acts at Murphy’s home, to which Miller and Nichols both arrived as well. She testified she was threatened with the video numerous times. When Murphy’s stepfather entered the room at one point while she was engaging in a sexual act with one of the defendants, she said he kicked everyone out, saying, “this is not a whorehouse.”
At that point, she testified being driven around Niles and the boys allegedly continued to sexually assault her.
She said the entirety of the event took place in less than an hour, and she returned home around midnight.
The victim was quiet in her testimony and also slow to respond at times. Each of the defendants have individual representation. Washington is represented by Jim Jesse, Parnell Martin by Lanny Fisher and Martell Miller by Sean Drew, and the defense spared no time in challenging the victim’s credibility and raising questions in her testimony.
The victim testified she has had a Facebook profile for nearly two years, with an estimated 600 “friends.”
“So you know Facebook does not allow graphic sexual material to be posted, correct?” Drew pressed.
The victim claimed she didn’t, saying she’d seen other videos on Facebook that seemed “shocking” and saying she was not on Facebook that much, being that she no longer has a computer.
But later, she also testified that such videos “can be on there up to a certain amount of days until they find out it’s on there … you have to report it or something. Anything can go on the Internet.”
Fisher also questioned the victim’s relationship with Murphy and entered a number of text messages into evidence to show that Murphy never clearly stated to the victim the video he was watching of her was of her with Washington.
Murphy is expected to testify when court reconvenes today.
Each of the defense attorneys also questioned why the victim never yelled for help, knowing Murphy’s stepfather was in another room, why she did not take an opportunity to leave when Washington, Martin and Miller told her she could either “finish” or walk home, or why she didn’t use her cell phone.”
“Knowing there were five or six guys with some parent I don’t know and I’m the only girl,” the victim said, she was scared. And she said she was unsure of where she was once back in the car with Martin, Miller and Washington, so she couldn’t have walked home.
There is much testimony still to be heard in what appears to be just the beginning of a complicated case.
With the pre-exam scheduled to continue as well as Nichols’ exam to begin, there are sure to be more questions raised about just what happened just a few months ago that led so many Niles teenagers to a Berrien County courtroom.
• Miller now faces two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree; two counts criminal sexual conduct in the 3rd 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 now being charged with one count of criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree; one count criminal sexual conduct in the 3rd degree; one count of extortion; and one count of possession of child sexually abusive material.
• Washington now faces three counts of criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree; one count criminal sexual conduct 3rd 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.