Martise Washington listens to testimony Tuesday at the Niles Berrien County Courthouse with attorney James Jesse (right). Washington was found guilty on seven count in connection to a sex video extortion scandal. John Madill / Herald-Palladium

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Washington found guilty on all counts

Published 7:06pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

Martise Washington sat stoically with his head resting on one hand as a jury revealed its verdict — guilty on all counts.

After about one hour of deliberations at the South Berrien County Courthouse in Niles Thursday, the jury found Washington guilty of three counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of third degree criminal sexual conduct, extortion, possession of child sexually abusive material and surveillance of an unclad individual.

Washington, the first of five Niles teenagers allegedly involved in a sex video extortion scandal to face trial, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12.

The defendants are accused of producing a video of Washington, 18, and a girl, 17 at the time, and then threatening to post it to Facebook if she didn’t return sexual favors.

Defense attorney Jim Jesse said it was “a sad situation.”

“The evidence was pretty overwhelming,” he said. “I feel badly for the young man.”

Jesse said Washington had an opportunity to take a plea bargain that would have reduced the charges but he refused, claiming he wanted to “tell his story.”

Jesse said his educated guess for Washington’s sentencing guideline range would be between eight and 11 years.

“He’ll pay a big price for not taking that opportunity,” he said.

Washington took the stand as the defense’s only witness Thursday, the third day of the trial.

The defense tried to paint Washington as a troubled youth who was beginning to turn his life around.

Washington, who grew up without his biological parents in Benton Harbor, spent 13 months in a juvenile center for drug-related crimes. But Washington said after moving to Niles, he was “doing pretty good.”

“I even made the Niles Daily Star for my remarkable turnaround,” he said, referencing a story about himself in the newspaper. (

Washington then told his side of the story, admitting to having consensual sex with the victim on March 14 and producing a video of their encounter at co-defendant Leon Murphy’s home.

But Washington claims the victim knew about the recording from the beginning, despite contradictory testimony yesterday from the victim and Washington’s friend, Eugene Davenport, who was at Murphy’s home that night.

During cross examination from Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli, Washington admitted that the victim, Davenport and the prosecution’s other witnesses had no reason to lie.

Washington also claimed he didn’t send any texts to the victim threatening to post the video to Facebook but that it was Murphy using his phone. He also argued that his sexual encounter with the victim March 18 was consensual, despite contrary testimony from the victim yesterday.

Both victims presented graphic testimony Wednesday of sexual assaults by Washington and his co-defendants.

During the prosecution’s closing arguments, Pierangeli pointed out that the victim and his witnesses, many of whom were friends with Washington, had no reason to lie.

“Who has a motive to lie? There is only one person here. And he’s sitting right over there,” Pierangeli said, pointing to Washington.

During cross-examination from Pierangeli, Washington said he doesn’t consider what he did to be criminal sexual conduct.

“It doesn’t matter what the defendant’s perception of the law is,” Pierangeli said in closing arguments. “That is not a defense…That’s crazy.”

Pierangeli pointed to text messages between the victim’s phone and Murphy’s and Washington’s phones and Facebook posts as corroborating evidence to the victim’s testimony.

“Those texts walks us through exactly what happened that night,” Pierangeli said.

During cross examination from the prosecutor, Washington admitted that the second victim’s assertion that he had extorted sex from her by threatening to post “dirty” photos of her on Facebook was a “coincidence.” That victim testified she didn’t know the other victim.

Pierangeli said if it was just a coincidence, Washington would be the most “unlucky man in the world.”

“Ever thought you’re not just unlucky but guilty?” Pierangeli asked.

During Jesse’s closing arguments, he pointed to the victim’s demeanor, arguing she didn’t appear to show much emotion.

“(The victim’s) testimony was all monotone,” he said.

Jesse also asked the jury to not consider the quantity of evidence but the quality.

Earlier in the proceedings, the prosecution called two friends of the second victim to the stand, who described what the victim told them about the incident after it happened.

The day began with two jurors expressing concerns to the judge about their observations of Jesse “nodding off” during proceedings Wednesday.

Judge Schofield told the jurors that he would handle the responsibility of ensuring a fair trial. He also made sure that the jurors’ observations wouldn’t affect their deliberations.

Two of Washington’s co-defendants, Martell Miller and Parnell Martin, are scheduled for trial Nov. 29. Murphy, who already pleaded guilty to two charges, is slated for sentencing Monday. Trey Nichols will be tried in December.

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