CORRECTION TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE: A reader informed me that the names of judges currently presiding over a court division in Florida attach to previous cases from that division — therefore, the judge listed online may not be the same judge who meted out a previous sentence in that division. I have corrected the following story to reflect this.
Why this happens is another issue. There ought to be real transparency in court proceedings, and it shouldn’t require a trip to the courthouse or a phone call to sometimes-unresponsive clerks to discover how a particular judge ruled on a particular case — who let a sex assailant and child abuser go free, to kill another victim, for instance.
Corrections are underlined. If anyone can provide the names of these judges, please let me know. I can’t access the dockets — although I pay these judges’ salaries, and so do you.
In the St. Petersburg Times this morning:
Sex offender accused of pregnant St. Petersburg teen’s death
Polk County Sheriff’s deputies have arrested a 36-year-old St. Petersburg man for the murder of a pregnant teen whose body was found Monday in Davenport.
Aurelio Martinez, (left) a registered sex offender, was arrested at about 7 a.m. on a second degree murder charge for the killing of 17-year-old Bria Metz.
I looked up Martinez’ sex offender record. In October, 1997, in Dade County (Miami), Martinez was convicted of burglary with assault and battery and sexual battery. He was also convicted of probation violation because he was on probation at the time of the attack.
Serious stuff, right? Burglary, assault and battery, sexual assault? So what did the presiding judge do? He or she sentenced him to probation. Probation for burglary, assault, a sex crime, and violating probation.
I guess the judge figured Martinez was getting good at probation. He’d been been on it for so long.
There’s a problem, though: the judge was not supposed to sentence Martinez to probation for these crimes. There’s another problem, too. Because some judge let Martinez go, probably in violation of Florida sentencing law, Martinez was free to commit felony child abuse with injury to the child in 2003.
In November, 2003, in Hollywood, Florida (Broward County), Aurelio Martinez and Amy Andrea Young were charged with child abuse, presumably of Ms. Young’s child. Police actually filed two charges against Martinez: felony child abuse and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Judge Carlos Rodriguez presided, the weapons charge apparently disappeared (of course), and Martinez was sentenced to three years in prison.
Here is where it gets confusing, at least from what can be seen on-line. The child abuse and assault with a deadly weapon crimes were committed on 11/2003. Martinez was sentenced in 7/2005, twenty months later. Was he in prison during that time? Or was he on probation again, until he violated that probation as well? Broward County wants me to pay for access to that part of the website — the charge is five dollars simply to find out Martinez’s sentence. That’s nuts.
[Note to Howard C. Forman, Clerk of Courts, Broward County: I already pay for that website. It’s called taxes.]
My guess is that Martinez was in jail awaiting sentencing. It would be nice to think so — nice to think that the judge hadn’t given him probation again, for beating a child. In any case, he entered the state prison system in 7/2005 and got out 25 months later, which is either two years behind bars or nearly four years behind bars, depending on what happened in 2004.
In 2006, during the time he was in prison, he was also sentenced to one year and three months in the 1997 “burglary/assault-and-battery/sexual assault” charge in Dade County. Maybe he was going to get out early from the child abuse charge, and they finally decided to give him some time for “burglary/assault-and-battery/sexual assault/parole violation.” Or maybe it took them several months to figure out that he was on probation in another county for serious felony charges.
If they did decide to give him a bit of time for the sexual assault, finally, it wasn’t much, and it was served concurrently with the felony child abuse sentence.
Are you enraged yet? I’m enraged. Probation for a sex crime, even after violating probation, and then less than two years for the sex crime after his probation was revoked because he’d violated probation a third time and committed felony violence against a child, and he still didn’t even serve all of that sentence? Do we have absolutely no standards? And still, the academicians and activists and the Pew Foundation whimper:
“We’ve got too many people behind bars. We’re a fascist state.”
But, of course, it gets worse.
Let’s start at the beginning. Only, we can’t do that, because juvenile records are sealed. Oh, well. Aurelio Martinez’s first adult charge, unsurprisingly, occurred months after his 18th birthday. Funny how that happens: I wonder what he was doing before he aged out of juvenile. The 1991 charge was for loitering and resisting arrest. It was dropped. Whatever. It didn’t take long for Martinez to get into serious trouble. In 1994, he was convicted of felony burglary, felony grand theft, felony possession of burglary tools, and carrying a concealed weapon.
You know where this is going. Three felony convictions? Probation, of course. Some judge let him go. One year of probation, starting 12/15/94. What was this judge thinking? What is he thinking today, after the murder?
Another charge against Martinez was decided by the judge that day — it has a different case number and different filing date. I’m not sure if it is a totally separate offense. In any case, felony armed burglary in that case was dropped (thank you, plea bargains), felony cocaine possession and concealed weapon charges were disposed with probation, and probation violation was disposed with terminating probation. But at the end of the day, Martinez walked out of court on probation anyway.
“But we’re a fascist state. We’re so hard on criminals.”
Imagine being the police officer who had to arrest Martinez, knowing full well he was armed, that he had used weapons, that he had a record.
Imagine being the social worker walking into his home a few years later to try to rescue a child. We send unarmed child protection workers into homes where there are armed felons. We expect unarmed child protection workers to challenge the authority of armed felons.
“But we’re a fascist state.”
Nobody asks judges to do what we ask of unarmed child protection workers and police officers. Perhaps if we asked them to confront the violent people they send back into the community in the communities they send them to, sentencing patterns would change.
What is the matter with our judges? In this case, it looks very much like at least one judge broke the law. But even if he didn’t — even if there was some loophole that permitted that judge to let Martinez walk free — why, in his judgment, did that seem like the right thing to do? How does any judge justify putting armed felons back on the streets, with no time served?
If no judge broke the law in releasing Martinez, clearly there are still problems with our repeat offender laws and minimum mandatory laws that need to be resolved by the legislature.
Because we can’t trust judges to keep us safe.
At least Martinez had to register as a sex offender in 1998, an act that placed his DNA on record and reminded him that his DNA would be in the state database, so if he committed another sexual assault, he could be identified. How many rapes have sex offender registries prevented this way?
But this raises another enforcement issue: is anybody enforcing the sex offender registry laws? In 2001, in Broward County, Martinez violated the registry rules. Adjudication was withheld — in other words, nobody did anything. And then he brutalized a child.
The record so far:
- 1991: Aurelio Martinez turns 18 and his subsequent crimes become public record.
- 1994: A judge lets Martinez walk on a fistful of serious, felony charges, including armed burglary.
- 1997: Another judge lets Martinez walk on even more serious, felony charges, including sexual assault, probation violation, burglary, concealed weapons.
- 2005: Judge Carlos Rodriguez slaps Martinez on the wrist for felony child abuse charges, drops other weapons charges, and chooses to not use his authority to enhance Martinez’s sentence in any way, despite his record, the unadjudicated sex offender registry violation, and the other times he has violated probation by committing violent crimes.
- 2007: Freed a few years later, Martinez violates probation again and flees.
- 2009: By his own admission, Martinez murders pregnant, 17-year old Bria Metz by strangling her.
Another question: did anybody know that Martinez was in St. Petersburg? If so, why wasn’t he picked up before Metz died, but only afterwards? From today’s St. Pete Times:
Martinez, who is currently in the Pinellas County Jail on violation of probation stemming from a 2003 child abuse case, told detectives he was with Metz was at his home the night she disappeared.
Metz wanted money, Martinez told detectives, and he drove her to her grandmothers. The two argued about money and began fighting after Metz threatened to expose their relationship to law enforcement.
Martinez told detectives that he grabbed Metz’ neck and held her for three to five minutes.
Serial judicial leniency claims another life. Bria Metz joins Eugenia Calle, and how many other victims of murder, killed despite numerous chances to put their murderers away?