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PADDLING CASE Jury seated in trial of ex-Fowler police chief



Published: Tue, January 25, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The theft charges involve taking items from the Howland police station.

WARREN -- A jury was seated Monday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in the case of a retired police officer accused of paddling many juveniles.

Judge Andrew Logan is presiding over the trial of James Martin, who retired last year as Fowler Township's part-time chief, and also as a full-time captain in the Howland Police Department.

State and federal officials began investigating Martin's juvenile diversion program in March 2004. The program, which diverted offenders from the court system, was being operated out of the Fowler Township Police Department.

Officials from both the Howland and Fowler departments may be called to testify about what they knew of Martin's program.

Judge Logan gave prospective jurors a brief overview of the case. "Parts of this program involved the use of corporal punishment," he told them.

Opening statements were presented Monday.

Pleaded innocent

Martin pleaded innocent in May 2004 to 20 misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty, 11 counts of assault, 12 counts of sham legal process and seven counts of unauthorized photography. He also faces two counts of theft in office, fifth-degree felonies. He has been free on $2,500 bond.

The indictment states that Martin used a wooden paddle on several juveniles and adults numerous times as part of the diversion program. The adults were age 18 and 20. All the victims were male, officials said.

The theft-in-office charge states that Martin took a police file, videotapes, physical evidence and diversion program files from 1975-92 from the Howland Township Police Department. The records were stored in his basement, the indictment states.

Authorities said the sham legal process charge means Martin showed juveniles a document that appeared official but in reality had no legal standing and was not lawfully issued.

Martin is represented by Atty. Dominic Vitantonio. David Toepfer, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, is presenting the state's case.

Vitantonio has said his client operated the diversion program in an attempt to help juveniles stay out of trouble. In a prior motion to have the seven counts of unauthorized photography of juveniles dismissed, Vitantonio explained that Martin videotaped the paddling of several juveniles.

State law says no child should be fingerprinted or photographed in the investigation of any violation of law without the consent of the juvenile judge. Vitantonio, however, states in that motion, which was denied by Judge Logan in November 2004, that the juveniles were not under investigation when they were videotaped.




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