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Judge: No More Delays In County's Longest Pending Criminal Cases

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Delays in court proceedings for the county’s longest pending criminal cases are coming to an end, a judge said on Friday, after he gave a man charged with rape and child pornography until Nov. 5 to hire a lawyer.

Jeffrey Martin was arrested on Jan. 15, 2015, on rape charges involving an elderly woman who allowed Martin to stay at her Normal home after she hired him to work on a computer. A month later, the state filed 13 counts of child pornography against Martin accusing him of possessing illegal images of children on a computer seized as part of the sexual assault investigation.

Martin also faces a new sentencing hearing on unrelated aggravated battery charges stemming from an assault of a store worker. The Fourth District Appellate Court sent the case back to McLean County for reconsideration of Martin’s 7-year sentence, which he has since completed.

Referring to Martin’s case files as “very ancient” and “the oldest files I have,” Judge William Yoder rejected Martin’s assertions that no defense lawyer will take the cases. If lawyers consider the cases too controversial as Martin claims, the defendant may have himself to blame, said Yoder.

Martin’s history as a “difficult person” who argues with lawyers and judges may give some lawyers pause, said Yoder.

“This is the last time these cases are going to be set over,” Yoder told Martin, noting that the defendant is entitled to a lawyer “but you don’t have the right to delay the case and stretch it out to all eternity.”

The sentencing matter – the least complicated of Martin’s cases – will move forward first, said Yoder.

In the past five years and 7 months since he was taken into custody on the rape charges, Martin has hired and fired several private attorneys and represented himself for long periods after he asked that the public defender’s office be removed from his case.

The state has chosen to bring Martin, 56, to trial first on the child porn charges.

The most recent delay began when Bloomington lawyer Steve Skelton left Martin’s case, citing an inability to communicate with his client. Yoder took over Martin’s case in January after Scott Drazewski retired as circuit judge.

In a 2018 hearing, Martin denied the sexual assault charges, describing the relationship with the woman as “fondness” that “makes the world go around.” Prosecutors will be allowed to share details of six of more than 50 incidents of alleged sexual assault when the case goes to trial, according to Drazewski’s 2018 ruling in the rape case.

Prosecutor Erika Reynolds said Friday the state prefers Martin have a lawyer for the serious felony cases.

Yoder said he would appoint a public defender to the cases over Martin’s objections, if private counsel has not been hired. Martin clarified he will not accept legal assistance from Public Defender Ron Lewis but would consider working with another court-appointed lawyer from the office.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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