HESPERIA, Calif. (VVNG.com) — A former custodian at Maple Elementary School was acquitted by a jury on all counts following accusations of child sexual abuse that caused him to spend several years in custody.
The Superior Court of San Bernardino County, Joshua Tree District, acquitted Mr. Pedro Martinez, a resident of Hesperia, on all 10 counts of child sexual abuse. After a lengthy trial spanning three and a half months, the jury found Mr. Martinez not guilty of the heinous crimes he was accused of.
The trial, which concluded on December 11, also saw an 11th count being dismissed mid-trial. Mr. Martinez, who had been in custody since January 22, 2019, has now been released, much to the relief of his family and supporters.
During the trial, criminal defense trial attorney Ian Wallach of the Law Offices of Ian Wallach, P.C., expressed great satisfaction with the outcome, stating, “We are thrilled that Pedro Martinez has been found not guilty of any of the terrible crimes that he was accused of, and he is home again with his family.”
The defense team argued that Magdalena Serna, a mentally ill woman with a history of abuse, had falsely accused Mr. Martinez to divert attention from herself after being found to repeatedly abuse a child. They claimed that her allegations were wrongly believed by San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Womelsdorf, who failed to properly investigate the matter. The defense further highlighted the Deputy’s use of leading and suggestive questions when interrogating an impressionable six-year-old child, ultimately leading to coerced answers that were inconsistent with the allegations made by Ms. Serna.
Ian Wallach criticized the Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office, stating, “San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department failed multiple children, failed Mr. Martinez, and failed the Hesperia community. The jury saw this plain as day. Why the Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office could not and did not is appalling.”
The defense team strongly emphasized that accusations of child molestation should be taken seriously, and law enforcement should respond swiftly and with utmost integrity. They called for compliance with proper training, accountability for errors, and thorough investigations.
Katherine McBroom, co-counsel for Mr. Martinez and founding partner of Kaedian LLP, commented, “It is chilling that with such a stark lack of corroborating evidence, law enforcement pressed forward, labeling an innocent man a ‘monster’ and endorsing the rantings of a clearly troubled woman.”
Nancy Gray, of Gray & Associates Law Offices P.C., another essential member of the defense team, played a crucial role in advocating for Mr. Martinez’s innocence.
The background of the case reveals that Mr. Martinez was arrested in January 2019 following allegations made by Magdalena Serna, who has a criminal record and is known for abusive behavior.
According to a sheriff’s news release, Martinez was arrested on suspicion of molesting a 6-year-old boy at Hesperia Elementary School, where he worked as a janitor since 2005. Officials released his photo because they believed there were more possible victims.
The attorney also argued that San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Womelsdorf, lacked specialized training, and conducted interviews with the alleged victims, one of whom ultimately suggested abuse under prompting and coercion.
Despite a significant lack of concrete evidence, including negative results from DNA analyses and Sexual Assault Response Team exams, Mr. Martinez was arrested and held in custody for nearly five years.
The trial, which faced numerous delays due to COVID-19 and requests from the Office of the District Attorney for the County of San Bernadino, commenced on August 29, 2023, and concluded with the jury’s acquittal on December 11, 2023.
“In this case, law enforcement seemed to endorse this witch hunt and got carried away with panic, pride, and self-preservation. Mr. Martinez waited five years for a level-headed evaluation of this case and the jury delivered. It is chilling that with such a stark lack of corroborating evidence, law enforcement pressed forward, labeling an innocent man a ‘monster’ and endorsing the rantings of a clearly troubled woman. Despite the Court severely limiting the evidence we sought to introduce at trial, the truth bubbled through. Thankfully, the jury had the courage and wherewithal to do what should have been done five years ago. Justice, although delayed, was indeed served,” said Katherine McBroom, co-counsel for Mr. Martinez and founding partner of Kaedian LLP.
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