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TRUMBULL COURT Paddling program was too severe, 11th-grader testifies



Published: Thu, January 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defense lawyer made note that the program was voluntary.

WARREN -- Richard Woolf says his parents never hit him, so he was surprised by how hard he was paddled by a police officer.

Those first three swats administered in January 2004 by James Martin at the Fowler Township Police Department, where he was part-time chief, were "probably the hardest I've ever been hit in my life," Woolf said.

The Mathews High School 11th-grader from Vienna said the experience made him cry.

For the prosecution

Woolf testified Wednesday for the prosecution in Martin's jury trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. Outside in the hall, at least two other young men waited to possibly be called to testify.

Woolf said he got involved in Martin's juvenile diversion program after he was ticketed for speeding and was referred to the program. He and his mother were told by Martin there would be stiff fines and higher insurance to pay if the case went to court, Woolf recalled under questioning by David Toepfer, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor.

Part of the program involved following and reciting 17 rules of conduct. Among the punishments suggested was paddling.

"He suggested it to me," Woolf testified. "He said, 'Well, what about swats?'

"I said, 'Well, my parents never hit me, but if that's what we have to do, that's what we have to do.'"

He and his mother signed a document agreeing to the program. However, Woolf testified he was unaware his paddling was being videotaped by Martin.

The youth said he was taken into Martin's office and told to stand beside a desk, pull down his pants, bend over and grab his ankles.

"He told me if I moved, he'd hit me again. If I wiggled around, he'd hit me again," Woolf testified.

He initially went along because he had been warned about fines and thought the program would keep him out of trouble. "It seemed like it was the right thing to do. I mean, it was a police officer, so I didn't see anything wrong with it," Woolf said.

He put up with it for a week, then said he felt the paddling was too severe.

Still, defense attorney Dominic Vitantonio had Woolf agree, "There's no question you voluntarily entered into this program."

Chief unaware of program

Judge Andrew Logan is presiding over the jury trial. 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.

Paul Monroe, Howland police chief since 2003, has known Martin 20 years. Martin also was a full-time captain in the Howland department, in charge of all uniform operations and day turn. He has since retired from both Fowler and Howland.

Monroe said he was unaware Martin was running a juvenile diversion program until an FBI agent told him about it in March 2004. Martin had been told in 1993 by Steve Lamantia, a former Howland chief, to stop the program.

Monroe subsequently interviewed two males at Howland High School who had participated in the program and one produced a speeding ticket issued by Martin.

There was no record at the Howland Police Department of that ticket being issued, and Martin had no authority to take the young man to a diversion program in Fowler, Monroe testified.

Monroe termed "absurd" the notion that a Howland officer could take juvenile traffic offenders to Fowler and spank them.

He termed Martin's program in Fowler "a sham" legal process, a serious error in judgment and a crime. He said it would be unlawful on grounds of dereliction of duty and assault.

Referrals to a juvenile diversion program are based solely on guidelines from the Trumbull County Family Court, he explained. All juvenile traffic citations go to this court; Howland runs a sanctioned program through its administrative offices, separate from the police, to keep the process objective.

Once the officer writes the ticket, he has no discretion but to turn it in to the court, Monroe said.




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