Judge says molestation trial of former police sergeant can proceed

EVERETT — A former Monroe police sergeant’s right to a fair trial on sex-crime charges was not irreparably harmed when a Snohomish County deputy prosecutor last month reviewed emails between the man and his attorney in a 2010 divorce, a judge ruled Wednesday.

That means Carlos Alberto Martinez, 61, still is scheduled to face trial later this month on multiple counts of child molestation and other offenses. He is accused of starting up a sexual relationship in 2003 with a then-14-year-old girl he’d met years earlier when he taught drug education for her elementary school.

Mark Mestel, the attorney representing Martinez in the sex case, had urged Superior Court Judge Michael Downes to dismiss the charges.

Martinez’s constitutional right to legal counsel had been violated when deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul reviewed emails that contained information protected by attorney-client privilege, he said.

If the case was not dismissed, Mestel wanted Paul removed to guard against the possibility she’d somehow make use of improperly gathered information.

Downes last week ruled that Paul did not have permission to look at the attorney-client material. On Wednesday, however, he found that her review was “cursory at best,” and the messages contained nothing the prosecutor did not already know from other sources, including public records about Martinez’s divorce and materials another of the defendant’s lawyers had supplied the prosecutor in the hopes of convincing her not to file charges in 2013.

The emails were among more than 6,200 messages seized under a court-approved search warrant.

In preparation for Wednesday’s decision, the judge spent days poring over the disputed emails himself.

A key question was this: What, if anything, did the prosecution gain from examining the problematic materials?

“The answer is nothing,” Downes said.

Further, he said the record was clear that Paul and others at the prosecutor’s office had been concerned about protecting attorney-client information from the outset. There were repeated attempts to have Mestel examine the emails and flag concerns.

Paul maintained she only began looking because she believed Mestel had given her tacit approval. Mestel remembered differently.

Regardless, it was the prosecutor who stopped examining the materials and alerted Mestel after she encountered emails that she worried could contain information protected by attorney-client privilege.

“Ms. Paul has been very forthright about what happened here,” Downes said, adding that he was impressed with her honesty throughout the pre-trial inquiry.

The judge said there was no reason to have Paul step away from the case. Still, steps will be taken to make certain prosecutors can demonstrate they have sources other than the disputed emails when they seek at trial to introduce information about Martinez’s divorce.

Martinez resigned from the Monroe Police Department in 2009, the same year he separated from his wife and moved to Texas with the girl. Now in her 20s, she went to police in Texas in 2011. Martinez told investigators he didn’t start having sex with her until she was 18.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snorthnews

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