Parents brought their sons to a church program hoping that they would grow in their faith, but the boys instead got the “nightmare of their lives,” said state District Court Judge Michael Vigil.
Vigil heard from two families whose young boys were sexually abused by 36-year-old Anthony Martinez of Santa Fe while he was a youth program volunteer at Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Church. The father of one victim told Vigil his son, a “loving child with much faith in the Lord,” went from being a good student and athlete to being withdrawn, depressed and suicidal because of Martinez’s actions.
Before sentencing Martinez to the maximum 15-year penalty available under a plea deal for two different sex crime cases, Vigil told the families that he hopes their children can heal.
“I hope they haven’t lost their faith,” Vigil told the families.
Martinez was awaiting sentencing since August 2011 on the first case charging him with criminal sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Last month, Martinez was indicted on new charges accusing him of criminal sexual penetration – rape – of a child under 13. The sentencing in his earlier case was delayed pending Martinez’s completion of a sex offender treatment program.
Prior to receiving Vigil’s sentence, Martinez said the program was helpful. He said he took responsibility for “creating victims both directly and indirectly.” At one point, he told Vigil that someone told him to call his crimes mistakes.
“These weren’t mistakes,” Martinez said. “These were well-planned.”
Martinez’s attorney, Andras Szantho, told Vigil that Martinez had a long, hard road ahead of him, but he believed Martinez could “make it” outside prison.
“I don’t feel an extended incarceration will benefit society or Anthony,” Szantho said.
Deputy District Attorney Judith Reed painted a different picture of Martinez, calling attention to mental evaluations that stated he would respond to treatment.
The person writing that report asked Martinez whether anything like the first sex crime case had ever happened before.
Martinez lied and said it had not, according to Reed. More charges with a different victim surfaced later, so that evaluation was based on incomplete information, she said. Reed further argued that Martinez was using his position to get close to his victims and deliberately prey upon them.
“He is a master manipulator,” she said, while asking Vigil to impose the full 15-year sentence.
Vigil, prior to sentencing Martinez, said locking him up would help Martinez’s victims cope with their abuse. Vigil told Martinez he would be frank with him.
“I do not believe that these are the only victims,” he said. “I really don’t.”
Vigil also said he regretted that after the “pedophile priests” scandal faced the Catholic church, a church again was used to access children.
Martinez was sentenced to 15 years, minus 14 months he spent on electronic monitoring and five months he spent in the treatment program. Following that, Martinez must spend between five and 20 years on probation. Once he is released, he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Reed said following the hearing that Martinez can earn good time that can reduce his sentence but at a lower rate of 15 percent because of the violent nature of his crime.
The new charges stem from Martinez’s work in a youth ministry program, according to State Police. The victim in the case was 11 years old when he was assaulted by Martinez in 2007.
In his earlier case, Martinez was accused of victimizing two 15-year-old boys, one of whom he met through the youth program between 2008 and 2010. One boy told police Martinez performed a sex act on him and, in exchange, bought a cellphone for him. Martinez admitted masturbating with another boy and making alcohol available to the teens.
In August 2011, Martinez’s sentencing on the older case was delayed pending his completion of the treatment program.
As part of a plea deal, a count of criminal sexual penetration and other charges were dropped last year.