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Published: Sat, January 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The prosecution rested its case against the former Fowler Township police chief.

WARREN -- The compact disc found in James Martin's bedroom labeled "swat training" didn't mean Special Weapons and Tactics, a state agent found.

"There are 26 files on the disc and each file shows a person being spanked with a paddle," testified Dennis DiRienzo of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

DiRienzo was the last witness called by the prosecution Friday as it rested its case against Martin, the retired part-time Fowler Township police chief and full-time Howland Police captain.

Martin ran a juvenile diversion program -- first in Howland and then Fowler -- that came under investigation for its use of corporal punishment and other practices.

He is on trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. The defense presented some witnesses Friday afternoon and will resume its case next week.

Charges

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. 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.

David Toepfer, an assistant county prosecutor, said Martin, if convicted, could face up to two years in prison.

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

DiRienzo testified about searches by consent and later with a warrant in March 2004 at Martin's state Route 193 residence in Fowler. Items seized included computer storage media, Howland police case file documents, Fowler diversion program documents and a computer.

Thirteen boys' files were found in a home office file cabinet. His investigation, DiRienzo noted, revealed "at least 45" occasions of people being paddled.

'Swat training'

One compact disc called "swat training" was found on a bedroom dresser, he testified.

The acronym SWAT, he noted, generally means in police terms "Special Weapons and Tactics."

Some of the disc's contents were shown to the jury -- four or five clothed young men bent over and being whacked with a paddle. The paddle made loud contact with the youths; they did not seem to cry out during their short video bits. They wore what appeared to be blue jeans; one boy wore basketball shorts.

Young men who participated in the diversion program and their parents testified this week that they were not aware the paddlings were being videotaped. They had consented to the program after run-ins with police and a desire to stay out of juvenile court.

They were aware swats were an option; some of the youths and parents complained the paddling was too severe. Four juveniles have civil actions pending against Martin seeking monetary damages.

The swat training disc, DiRienzo testified, was the only one taken by authorities even though there were two stacks of CDs and DVDs atop a dresser; he couldn't recall what these discs were.

Martin's house and basement were cluttered with boxes, he noted. Items found during the searches were in the basement and an office area upstairs.

Defense attorney Dominic Vitantonio began his case by calling Diane Pusztai, county Juvenile Court diversion bureau director. She's responsible for determining which juveniles are appropriate for the court's program.

The juvenile court diversion effort aims to keep youths out of the court system and keep them from committing more offenses and ending up in jail. Generally, the program involves a warning, community service, counseling and probation, she explained.

Records stay in the diversion bureau's file room and are destroyed after two years, she said.




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