California school janitor cleared of sexual abuse charges after spending nearly 5 years in jail

A jury has acquitted a former Southern California elementary school janitor who spent years in jail after being accused of sexually abusing students, his attorneys announced Tuesday.

Pedro Martinez, of Hesperia, who’s been jailed since January 2019, was found not guilty on Monday on all 10 counts against him. An 11th charge was dismissed during his 3 1/2-month-long trial, according to a statement from his attorneys.

He has been released.

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“We are thrilled that Pedro Martinez has been found not guilty of any of the terrible crimes that he was accused of, and he is home again with his family,” defense attorney Ian Wallach said in the statement.

The defense emphasized a lack of proper evidence, including the absence of a connection between Martinez and any crimes on campus, and criticized law enforcement for mishandling the case. (Fox News)

Martinez’s attorneys alleged there wasn’t any legitimate evidence in the case and accused the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department of bungling and misconduct. They didn’t immediately indicate whether Martinez might sue but said he is considering his options.

“Although the outcome was not what we were seeking, we want to thank the members of the jury for their time and consideration,” the DA’s office said in an email.

An email seeking comment from the Sheriff’s Departments wasn’t immediately returned.

Martinez was arrested after a woman who was a friend of one student’s family claimed that for months he had been molesting 6-year-old boys at Maple Elementary School in Hesperia, his attorneys said.

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Prosecutors alleged Martinez took boys into a classroom during school lunch periods and abused them. They charged him with multiple counts related to sexual abuse of a child.

A sheriff’s deputy who lacked special training in interviewing children spoke with three boys who denied any wrongdoing and then “seemingly prompted and coerced one of them to agree that some abuse happened,” Martinez’s attorneys said. “That is the extent of the evidence.”

Further investigation, including DNA testing and interviews with school employees, failed to connect Martinez to any crimes on campus, but he was arrested anyway, his lawyers said.

“Accusations of child molestation are extremely serious and we expect law enforcement to respond swiftly and to act with integrity and professionalism at every step,” defense co-counsel Katherine Broom said in the statement. “In this case, law enforcement seemed to endorse this witch hunt and got carried away with panic, pride, and self-preservation.”

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