After years of ethical and sexual misconduct complaints, Maricopa County prosecutor Juan Martinez has been placed on paid administrative leave.
“On Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, Juan Martinez was placed on paid administrative leave," Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, told reporters in a email statement shared on Tuesday night. "We currently have no further comment on this personnel matter at this time.”
Liewer sent the email in response to "several inquiries from reporters." On Tuesday afternoon, Phoenix New Times received an anonymous tip that there was a rumor circulating at the county attorney's office that Martinez had been fired, then contacted Liewer.
Martinez, famed for his role in the high-profile Jodi Arias case, lately has become more notorious for his litany of misconduct complaints than his work as a prosecutor. At least seven bar complaints have been filed against Martinez in the past four years.
Last March, the State Bar of Arizona filed a misconduct complaint against Martinez alleging that he had committed serious ethical transgressions during the Arias trial and inside the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Martinez is accused of leaking confidential information to a blogger covering the Arias case, striking up a sexual relationship with a juror and lying about it to the Arizona State Bar, and sexually harassing a Maricopa County court reporter. He is facing a disciplinary hearing over that complaint in April.
According to the complaint, Martinez began a sexual relationship with a blogger who was writing about the Arias case, then used her to dig up information on a juror who was preventing Arias from receiving the death penalty. Martinez wanted to find "information that might disqualify her from continuing the deliberation." Once he figured out who the holdout juror was, he allegedly tried to get her dismissed from the case so he could get Arias sentenced to death, but failed. He is also accused of striking up a relationship with a juror who was dismissed from the case and using her to get a "read" on how two other jurors may be leaning in the case.
Sexual misconduct complaints against Martinez go back decades, but it has had little to no effect on his career until now. Last August, ABC-15 News reported that Martinez's personnel file contains a reprimand from a supervisor in the early 1990s. The supervisor wrote: "It has come to my attention that there was an incident in February, where you made inappropriate sexual remarks toward a female attorney in this office ... It is now time that this behavior ceases, once and for all."
When even more egregious allegations of sexual and ethical misconduct against Martinez came to light in recent years, including that he allegedly told an intern he "wanted to climb her like a statute" and sexually harassed female co-workers so relentlessly they hid in bathrooms to get away from him, then-Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery did little in the way of discipline.
Montgomery, who resigned from the office in September to take a seat on the state Supreme Court, has been accused of covering up Martinez's misconduct. Montgomery responded to calls for his resignation by stating that after the investigation, Martinez was disciplined with a written reprimand and mandatory training for sexually harassing his female co-workers. But documents related to the investigations of Martinez's misconduct were sealed at Montgomery's request.
In 2016, the Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee recommended that Martinez be placed on one year's probation for his unethical behavior. But Martinez asked for a disciplinary hearing, in which deliberations reportedly lasted all of one minute before the charges were dismissed.
When veteran sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell assumed the role of acting county attorney for a few weeks following Montgomery's resignation in September, she reassigned Martinez from the Capital Litigation Bureau to the Auto Theft Bureau.
"The cases assigned to our Capital Litigation Bureau are very time intensive and demand the assigned prosecutor's undivided effort and attention," Mitchell said in her statement explaining her reasoning for reassigning Martinez. "Given the Arizona Bar proceedings involving Mr. Martinez, I felt it was important to assign him a caseload that would be more flexible and allow him to take time when needed to focus on resolving these complaints."
At the upcoming disciplinary hearing in April, Martinez faces a range of potential disciplinary actions, including losing his license.
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