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Accused molester agrees to plea bargain
An Oak Harbor man accused of molesting children while he was babysitting them has agreed to a plea bargain, according to the Island County Prosecutor's Office.
It's a surprisingly quick resolution to a very unusual case involving nine victims, 30 counts of child-sex crimes, a confession, a tight-knit church community, victims’ families that wouldn't cooperate with the prosecution, and an offender accused of contacting victims from jail.
Thursday afternoon, Chief Criminal Prosecutor Colleen Kenimond announced that 21-year-old Nathan Martinez agreed to plead guilty to nine of the 30 counts he was originally charged with. The guilty pleas will encompass one count for each of the nine victims.
Under the plea bargain, the prosecution and defense will recommend that the judge sentence Martinez to an indeterminate sentence of 20 years to life. He'll have to serve a minimum of 20 years and then go before a board to ask for release.
At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, Martinez is expected to plead guilty to one count of rape of a child in the first degree, seven counts of child molestation in the first degree and one count of attempted child molestation in the first degree. He will be sentenced Oct. 24.
Kenimond said she made the plea offer and Martinez, represented by attorney Darrin Hall of Coupeville, quickly agreed.
If he hadn't made the deal, Kenimond said Martinez could have been incarcerated for many more years. Under the 30 charges, he was facing a standard range of more than 26 years in prison, plus the prosecution identified aggravating factors and special allegations which could have meant even more time.
In making the offer, Kenimond said she considered the fact that Martinez went to the Oak Harbor police and confessed in detail to the crimes.
But still, she had to consider the sheer number of victims. His victims were both boys and girls, ages 3 to 12. He met the families at the Living Faith Christian Center in Oak Harbor, where he was a volunteer in the Sunday school program.
In typical cases, Kenimond said she listens and takes input from victims and their families before making plea bargains. But this case was a rarity. The chief criminal prosecutor said she's not sure how all the families feel about the deal because two of them wouldn't communicate with her.
Martinez's attorney said previously that the families supported his client and even tried to communicate with him in jail.
Kenimond admits that some of the families probably do not agree with the resolution because they would like Martinez to get help instead of long periods of time in prison. There’s a special state program that allows certain first-time sex offenders to receive a short sentence if they agree to intensive sex-offender treatment outside of prison.
One of the parents wrote an email to the News-Times stating that he and the other parents love their children and are getting them the help they need. But they haven’t given up on Martinez.
“I hate the fact that it has brought negative light on our church as if we are some kind of cult,” he wrote. “We are following the ways of God here to the best of our abilities. We hate what was done, but we still show concern in hopes that he will change for the better!”
But Kenimond felt that she, “in good conscious,” couldn’t agree to a plea bargain that would allow Martinez to stay in the community.
“He said himself that he tried to stop, but couldn’t,” she said. “We saw that he couldn’t even stop contacting the children when he was in jail.”
Another one of the parents, who recently spoke out and separated herself from the other families, said she felt bittersweet about the resolution. For her children's sake, she's glad it's over and the community is safer.
On the other hand, she said she hates to see Martinez suffer and doesn’t believe in “an eye for an eye.” She said she left it to the prosecutors to decide what sentence was appropriate.
"I have no hatred towards him," she said. "I really wish he would have spoken out and gotten help and maybe he wouldn't have to suffer like this."