LOCKPORT - Jon C. Martin, who faced a possible sentence of life in prison as an alleged sexual predator, was freed from Niagara County Jail last week after his accuser was unmasked as a liar.
Martin, 38, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a drug misdemeanor and was sentenced to time served - more than eight months since being accused of raping a woman in his home on the night of Dec. 20-21.
The woman consistently denied that she knew Martin well before that night, claiming she had only a "minor relationship" with him, according to Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Zucco. She also denied buying drugs from Martin or going to see him that night to obtain drugs.
But text messages and voice mails left on Martin's cellphone showed that the woman's statements were false, Zucco said.
The evidence was on Martin's phone, which he obtained from a property locker at the Niagara County Jail, Assistant Public Defender Christopher A. Privateer said.
"We weren't sure we were going to be able to use it to get the district attorney to give us a fair disposition. We thought we were going to have to use it at the trial," Privateer said.
However, County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas ordered Privateer to turn the phone over to Zucco, who said the messages showed the woman was lying.
"These messages confirm the fact that the complaining witness lied at the grand jury, the preliminary hearing and the suppression hearing," Privateer said.
"It puts us in an untenable situation. She's lied about some crucial details," Zucco said in court. "It is now impossible for us to go forward with the charges in the indictment."
Thus, the charges of predatory sexual assault, first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse were dropped, and Martin was allowed to plead guilty to seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Zucco said the woman went to Martin's home that night to barter her cellphone for a supply of the painkiller hydrocodone, or to obtain forgiveness for past drug debts.
Zucco insisted the revelations didn't affect the truth of the claim of rape, but the woman would be deemed an unreliable witness in court.
"The physical evidence did not support the claim the complaining witness made against my client," Privateer argued. "My client continues to maintain there was no rape at the time of these transactions."
Zucco said the plea deal involved a pledge not to press further drug charges against Martin. He said the admissions of drug activity on the phone messages were vague.
Martin, who was convicted of sex offenses in Illinois and Georgia, and is serving a 15-year sentence for rape in the former state, will have to register as a sex offender in New York. Farkas is to rule Monday on what level of sex offender he will be considered.