DENVER (AP) - A Denver jury is deciding the fate of a former educator accused of sexually abusing two boys whose hiring led to the resignation of Albuquerque's school superintendent.
Jurors began deliberations Wednesday morning in the case against Jason Martinez. The longtime school administrator was arrested in the sex-abuse case in 2013 and later hired in Albuquerque to head the troubled school district's instruction and technology division. School officials never completed a background check on him, which led to the resignation of Luis Valentino, who said he was unaware of Martinez's legal problems.
Prosecutors said Martinez abused the boys during visits to his Denver home and on trips. Martinez, a former Denver schools employee, was a longtime friend of the boys' families. He adopted one boy's father when he was abandoned as a child. The families had come to trust him, Chief Deputy District Attorney Maggie Conboy told jurors during closing arguments.
"His facade was his reputation. Respected educator. Grandad. And look at him," Conboy said, pointing to Martinez, sitting at the defense table in a suit and tie. "We don't want to believe someone who looks like this could be capable of these kinds of crimes against children."
The accusations arose after the son of the man Martinez adopted came to stay with him in Denver in May 2013. Martinez had confronted the boy's mother because he was concerned about the boy's filthy living conditions back home. The child was 6 at the time.
After the visit, the boy told his mother that Martinez had abused him, prosecutors said. The second boy then came forward with similar accusations.
Defense attorney Leonard Martinez told jurors that the case was based on lies and inconsistencies. The 6-year-old boy's mother coaxed him to lie about the abuse to keep her from getting in trouble with social services, he said. The boys' relatives were all part of the scheme.
"It's a family who knew, once social services was mentioned, they all had to gang up and protect themselves," he said. "The only thing these people said that was true was that he was a good man."
Prosecutors said the boys were perfect targets for abuse because they came from poor and broken families.
In tearful testimony during the weeklong trial, Martinez denied the accusations.
- By Sadie Gurman, AP Writer
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