Judge mulls sanctions against defense team in Victoria Martens' death case - Albuquerque Journal

Judge mulls sanctions against defense team in Victoria Martens’ death case

Fabian Gonzales

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A private investigator’s visit with a jail inmate has emerged as an issue in the case of a man facing child abuse charges in the 2016 death and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

A prosecutor on Wednesday asked state District Judge Cindy Leos to hold the defense team in contempt for communicating with Victoria’s mother, Michelle Martens, without permission from Martens’ attorney.

Fabian Gonzales, 37, is charged with abuse of a child, recklessly caused, and other charges in Victoria’s killing. His trial is scheduled for July 11.

Gonzales is also charged with eight counts of tampering with evidence and one count of conspiracy for actions that allegedly include dismembering the girl, according to a grand jury indictment.

Maurice Moya, a private investigator on Gonzales’ defense team, visited Martens on Jan. 25 at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center and spoke with her in an interview room for about 25 minutes, prosecutors allege.

Moya visited Martens in jail to serve her with a subpoena in Gonzales’ trial, which was a permitted visit, Deputy District Attorney Greer Rose said at a hearing Wednesday.

But Moya violated professional standards by showing her a photograph and asking her questions about the case, Rose alleged.

The actions could be “proper for the disciplinary board and the licensing board to consider,” Rose said. She also asked Leos to fine the defense team $10,000.

Martens, 40, pleaded guilty in 2018 to child abuse recklessly caused resulting in her daughter’s death and faces 18 years in prison. No sentencing hearing has been scheduled.

A third co-defendant, Jessica Kelley, 37, was sentenced last month to 44 years in prison after pleading no contest in 2019 to reckless child abuse and other crimes in Victoria’s death.

Gonzales’ attorney, Stephen Aarons, acknowledged Wednesday that he asked his investigator to show Martens the photograph, but did so in the interest of his client.

“I thoughtlessly crossed over the line, and I should emphasize the word thoughtlessly,” Aarons said. “I did so out of zealous advocacy, but not in a desire to circumvent the court.”

The defense team was allowed to interview Martens on Dec. 18 but were limited to a prescribed set of questions.

Judge Leos told Aarons that Moya’s visit with Martens was a clear violation of the state’s rules for professional conduct, which prohibit lawyers from communicating with someone represented by another lawyer without the other lawyer’s consent.

“The defense had the opportunity to interview Ms. Martins, and no further questions would be asked of her, and the defense did it anyway,” Leos said.

Leos said she needed to seek guidance before deciding what actions to take.

“To be completely honest, it just puts me in a very difficult position,” Leos said.

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