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Jury convicts Jeffrey Martin of Normal after raucous trial with 51 contempt citations

A gavel sits on a judge's bench. On top of that photo, the words "WGLT Courts" appears.
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Jeffrey Martin was convicted by a jury on Thursday of 10 counts of child pornography following a three-day trial in which he was cited 51 times for contempt of court.

The jury deliberated for about two hours.

"Even when children depicted within the images are not identified, child pornography is not a victimless crime," McLean County State's Attorney Erika Reynolds said in a statement. "The McLean County State's Attorney's Office and local law enforcement officials are committed to collaboratively investigating these matters and doing everything possible to hold those who exploit children accountable."

Martin’s negative running commentary as Judge William Yoder read the 10 guilty verdicts was directed at the judge and authorities, blaming them for the convictions that could send him to prison for more than 100 years when he is sentenced Feb. 6.

Martin was removed from the courtroom Thursday morning after he disrupted the final portion of a prosecutor’s closing remarks to the jury.

The closing argument and verdict phases of the trial were moved to a high-security courtroom with an adjacent holding area for unruly inmates that allows them to hear the proceedings. Martin, who served as his own lawyer, was warned by Yoder that he would be taken out of the courtroom if he continued his pattern of insulting the judge and prosecutor and injecting remarks during the proceedings.

Pointing to the computer seized by Normal Police and an envelope containing 13 photographs of children, Assistant State’s Attorney Kirk Schoenbein told jurors that “this case is about this computer and these child pornography images and that man who got them on that computer.”

Charges accuse Martin of 10 counts of child pornography involving children under 13. The state also showed jurors two additional images of minors under 18 who were not part of the charges.

The computer was located as part of a 2016 police investigation into an alleged sexual assault of an elderly woman who had allowed Martin to stay at her home. The woman disclosed the alleged abuse to authorities after Martin was arrested following a hit-and-run accident in Champaign in which he was driving her car and she was a passenger.

Evidence collected from the computer shows that illegal images were accessed and viewed on the computer, said the prosecutor. The woman testified that she bought the computer for Martin and he was the sole user of the device. She said she was fearful of Martin and was often abused. Sexual assault charges related to the woman are pending against Martin.

The images “were not accidentally displayed or unwanted,” the prosecutor told jurors, adding that “it’s his computer, his residence, his rear end in the chair.”

Martin spent most of the 45 minutes allocated for his closing argument criticizing the judge, the prosecutor, police investigators and several lawyers he had hired and fired during the six years his case has been pending.

“This is their playing field,” Martin said, waving his hand around the perimeter of the courtroom, before referring to Yoder as “the commissioner” and Schoenbein as “the clown.” He ended his case by acknowledging the state “has proof of something, kinda” and denying possession of the computer.

Schoenbein asked jurors to return a guilty verdict based on the evidence of child pornography and not because Martin “is disagreeable, dislikeable and disruptive.” The defendant, said the prosecutor, has “a troubled mind” but “there’s an intelligence there.

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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