Parnell Martin was sentenced to 4 to 15 years in prison Monday.

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Martin gets 4 to 15 years

Published 12:09pm Monday, January 9, 2012

Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli has received more than 50 letters from family, friends and community members on behalf of the five Niles teenagers involved in the sex video extortion scandal.

Of all the notes, only one recognized the impact on the victim. That came from the mother of Parnell Martin, and it went a long way in a more favorable recommendation from the prosecutor at his sentencing Monday.

“I did appreciate it (the letter),” Pierangeli said. “It speaks volumes about her and her son.”

The prosecutor recommended a sentence in the middle of Martin’s three- to five-year guideline range. Judge Scott Schofield complied, handing down a four- to 15-year sentence. Martin will receive credit for 121 days already served.

Martin, who pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct, was “cooperative” with the police and prosecution, Pierangeli said.

Pierangeli also said he believes Martin to be the least culpable in the case that involved the young men videotaping a 17-year-old girl having sex with one of them and then threatening to post it to Facebook if she didn’t perform sex acts on them.

Martin, who had no prior criminal history, admitted to forcing the girl into sex acts in the back of a vehicle on the night of the incident last March but denied involvement with the video or the extortion.

“Of all the five, Mr. Martin got caught up in it the most. For the other four, this was a game or a sport. I don’t put Mr. Martin in that category,” Pierangeli said.

Judge Scott Schofield said although Martin found himself in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” he still caved into peer pressure to get involved.

“What was lacking was your commitment to do the right thing,” Schofield told Martin. “And now you are paying the price for your lack of courage and unwillingness to stand up to your friends.”

Before the judge handed down the sentencing, defense attorney Lanny Fisher requested that the offense variable scoring and sentencing guideline range be lowered, arguing Martin’s actions weren’t “excessively brutal.”

But Pierangeli pointed to the fact that Martin did force the victim into sex acts in the back of the car.

“Certainly, that increased her humiliation and suffering,” Pierangeli said. “According the victim’s own testimony, she said, ‘I didn’t even know if I’d make it out alive.’”

Schofield agreed with the prosecution, claiming Martin’s actions “could only be described as excessively brutal.”

Martin’s comments in court were remorseful, though he didn’t apologize directly to the victim.

“I know what I did was wrong. I apologize for that,” he said, holding back tears. “I never had the video or threatened with the video, but I took advantage of the situation.”

Schofield told Martin he is “impressed with (his) potential” and said, if he is able to work his way through the consequences, he has a “bright future.”

Pierangeli and Schofield expressed frustration with the focus by the community on the fate of the five defendants but not on the victim.

“A lot has been said in the community and the media about (Martin’s) future and not enough about the harm put on this young lady,” Schofield said.

Nichols’ sentencing postponed

Also scheduled for sentencing Monday was co-defendant Trey Nichols, but the proceedings were adjourned until Tuesday. Defense attorney Tat Parrish was late in submitting his objections to the sentencing guidelines.

Martise Washington, who was found guilty on all seven charges against him in November, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Leon Murphy received a seven- to 15-year prison sentence.

Martell Miller will be sentenced later this month.

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