Staff photo/Hayley Day The defendant Jose Cruz Churape-Martinez (left) and his lawyer Steve Brandli stand in front of Judge Donald Eaton in San Juan County Superior Court.

San Juan soccer coach pleads guilty to assault with sexual intent

(Warning: This story contains disturbing and graphic information.)

A former San Juan Island soccer coach, originally charged with the rape of a child, has agreed to a plea deal. This the third case resulting in reduced charges or dismissal due to the involvement of a former San Juan County detective.

On Wednesday, July 12, Jose Cruz Churape-Martinez, 26, of Friday Harbor pleaded guilty to one count of assault with sexual motivation in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor, in San Juan County Superior Court.

Martinez will start his 274 days in Island County Jail on Monday, July 17. After his roughly 9-month sentence, he has been ordered to pay $1,800 in restitution, mostly to the court, but also $500 to the victim.

According to the plea deal, Martinez, who was 22 at the time of the incident, agreed that he “intentionally asault[ed]…a human being by touching her in a harmful and/or offensive manner” with “sexual motivation.”

He was ordered not to contact the victim, knowingly come within 100 feet of the victim’s home or enter the premises of the victim’s school.

The victim, now 18, was 15 at the time. Martinez was seven years and four months older than the victim at the time of the incident, according to a police report. In February of 2017, he was charged with the rape of a child in the third degree, which occurs when sexual intercourse happens between a person at least 48 months older than a minor who is at least 14 years of age but less than 16 years of age and is not married or in a domestic partnership with the accused.

Lost files?

The incident occurred sometime between Nov. 1 through 30 of 2014.

On Dec. 28, 2016, the victim and her parents came to the sheriff’s office with a complaint that a 2015 rape case had not been sent to the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office. Sheriff Ron Krebs asked a deputy to investigate the case. The deputy found three recorded interviews: two from the victim and one from the Martinez.

According to the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office, Parker initially investigated the case and it was not reported to the prosecutor’s office.

Detective Parker’s three cases

Parker is no longer working as a detective. He was placed on an administrative leave, then resigned after a 2016 independent investigation alleged that he had sex with a victim of an alleged crime involving an Orcas teacher. The investigation stated that Parker was disrespectful towards her, used aliases to hide communication with her, and shared details of other cases with her.

The Orcas teacher received a guilty verdict in June, but after allegations about Parker surfaced the teacher’s charges were dismissed last April. The teacher will not serve jail time.

In May of 2016, a confession of child rape was given to Parker. In January of 2017, the confession was thrown out in trial due to the investigation, resulting in a guilty plea to one count of child molestation in the second degree.

The Martinez case is the third one to have reduced charges or to be dismissed because of Parker’s involvement. Teresa Zueger, senior criminal deputy prosecuting attorney who came to San Juan Island in 2016, told the Journal in March that her office could not find any files regarding the Martinez case.

According to the prosecutor’s office, this is the last active case that Parker investigated.

“Hopefully, this is the last case he has touched,” said Zueger.

Reduced charges

According to Zueger, the charges were dropped from rape, a class A felony, to assault, a misdemeanor, and it did not go to trial for several reasons. By offering a plea deal for a lesser charge, the prosecution said they could ensure the defendant was held accountable.

Secondly, the prosecution wanted to protect the victim from the emotional trauma of being questioned on the stand, she added.

There was also the delayed reporting by Parker that further complicated the case going to trial.

Zueger said the fact that Parker was involved with the case had “great bearing” on reducing the sentencing from rape to assault.

Even after the case was reinvestigated and new statements were collected from the victim and the accused, the delay created a risk. Zueger was concerned that a jury would question the facts of a 3-year-old case, which Parker was involved with. Zueger, however, is adamant that those facts never changed.

“It was a tough decision,” she said.

The case

The victim was interviewed by Parker on Dec. 2 and Dec. 30, 2015. The following was recorded in those interviews:

The victim went to Martinez’s residence in November of 2014. She was offered a beer by Martinez and, although she consumed beer prior to then, she fell asleep after drinking a small amount. When she awoke, she recalled, the alleged rape occurred. She stated that she was groggy and had trouble moving.

In the recorded interview with Martinez in 2016, he admitted to having consensual sex with the victim.

On Jan. 4, 2017, the deputy interviewed a friend of the victim who said that the first time she went to Martinez’s residence with the victim, she passed out on the floor after an hour. The friend said the victim claimed Martinez tried to talk the victim into having sex with him.

The second time they went to the residence, the friend again fell sleep. She claimed that a few days later the victim admitted to having consensual sex with Martinez that night.

On Jan. 19, 2017, the deputy received a report that Martinez was harassing the victim’s family. Martinez, who now lives in Bellingham, denied the harassment allegations. He was again asked about the sexual relationship with the minor and admitted to having consensual sex.

The defense

In court, the defendant’s attorney, Steve Brandli, said there was no drug use on the night of the alleged incident and Martinez didn’t entice the victim into his home.

Four people spoke for the victim and four spoke for the defendant before his sentence was set. Around 40 people filled the courtroom.

Brandli said “a true picture” of the defendant is that he is moral and hard working.

San Juan Island resident Don Pollard shared a photo of Martinez coaching soccer in Mexico. Martinez donated the jerseys and balls, said Pollard.

“Who will benefit from his incarceration?” he asked. “Our community needs teachers and role models.”

Not above the law

San Juan County Superior Court Judge Donald Eaton reminded the court that the victim was not present and her written testimony was not read based on her request. The Journal also chose not to disclose her statement for the same reason.

The victim’s father said he knew Martinez and thinks he’s a good person who did something wrong – but he is not above the law.

“He’s in trouble for what he did because of his own actions,” said the father.

Judge Eaton said he received many letters from the community about the case. One, submitted by Pollard, had around 60 signatures of support for Martinez.

After sentencing, Martinez apologized to the victim, her family and his family for his actions.

“This is my home; I grew up here. I came to this country without knowing the language,” said Martinez. “I want to apologize to all those people who believed in me.”

Despite requests, Eaton kept the original plea agreement’s sentence.

“Even the good people who break the law have to be held accountable,” he said.

– Cali Bagby contributed to this article.

 

Staff photo/Hayley Day San Juan Islander Don Pollard speaks on behalf of the defendant Jose Cruz Churape-Martinez.