Southerners
Martise Washington listens to testimony at the Niles Berrien County Courthouse with attorney James Jesse (right). Washington was sentenced to at least 20 years for his role in a sex video extortion scandal. John Madill / Herald-Palladium

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Niles teen gets 20 years for sex scandal

Published 10:34am Monday, December 12, 2011

Martise Washington will serve at least 20 years in prison for his role in a sex video extortion scandal involving five Niles teenagers.

Judge Scott Schofield handed the sentence out in Berrien County Trial Court in Niles Monday morning.

Washington, 18, was found guilty last month on 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.

For the most serious count, Schofield sentenced Washington to a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of 40 years. That means Washington will serve at least 20 years before he is eligible for parole, according to prosecutor Steve Pierangeli.

“It was a very serious crime and I think the judge handed down a fair sentence based on what took place that night with the victims. The sentence… was heavy, but the victim is going to live with this the rest of her life.”

Washington’s defense attorney, James Jesse, said the judge’s sentence is “a little harsh.”

“(Martise) is going to get three or four times the sentence everyone else is going to get because of the fact that he went (to trial) first,” Jesse said. “Once everyone saw what the results were they took plea bargains and that is understandable.”

Jesse expects Washington to appeal the decision.

“The other sentences will be so disproportionate to what his sentence is that the court of appeals I’m sure will look at that and have some real concerns about the sentencing,” Jesse said.

Washington did not speak or express remorse for his actions at sentencing, but Jesse said Washington feels badly about the situation. Jesse also said Washington probably wishes he had taken a plea agreement.

Monday’s sentencing stems from Washington’s role in a sex video extortion case involving a 17-year-old female victim. Washington and the victim had consensual sex, but Washington videotaped the sex act without her knowledge. Washington then threatened to post the video on Facebook if the victim did not perform sexual acts with him and his friends.

Judge Schofield described the incident as a brutal and heartless rape and told Washington he must be punished significantly for it.

“You may think your life is over, but it is not,” Schofield said prior to handing out the sentence. “You can learn from this, you can move past this, but of course while you are moving past this you need to pay for the crime you committed.”

Schofield said he hopes from this people would learn that what Washington did is not typical youthful teenage behavior.

The victim was not present at the sentencing, but Pierangeli said he has been in contact with her.

“It has been a very traumatic experience, no only the assaults themselves… but the process of having her life play out in front of the courtroom, the press, the media and everybody — it has all been so public for her,” he said. “She has been affected by it. She has had to change schools, move and do the best she can, but it has been very traumatic for her.”

Washington’s co-defendants Leon Murphy, Parnell Martin and Trey Nichols have all reached plea deals, while Martell Miller will begin his jury trial today.

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  • MichiganGram

    I am very sorry these young men did not have the training to know that raping, unwilling young girls was a crime. Let alone taking pictures when they were not aware. I also wonder why these girls did not go home and tell their Mothers what was going on, then the Moms would of handled this matter far sooner then later. You do the crime, you do the time ! Good lesson in not following others and know for yourself what is right or wrong. What part of this situation sounds like all was well? The Girls crying, begging to go home. Where did these boys do the right thing? All young people should learn from this. Go to your parents when some one is threatening you, parents be noisy and see what your teens are up to with computers and cell phones. This is our job as parents to know what is going on and with who. Even at age 17 our jobs are far from done. This is a lesson to all of us in one form or the other.

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