LAWRENCE, Mass. — A veteran Lawrence District Court officer has been charged with raping and sexually assaulting a shackled female prisoner five times since July 2009.

Jose F. Martinez, 46, a 16-year employee at the courthouse, was held on $40,000 bail Wednesday after his arraignment on three counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault and battery. He was ordered to stay away from the alleged victim and the courthouse except for his pending criminal case.

The woman has accused Martinez of raping and assaulting her in the courthouse elevator, in a female holding cell and in a maintenance area under a stairwell at the Fenton Judicial Center, where the Lawrence District Court is located. She says the sexual assaults occurred while she was wearing prisoner restraints.

Police say the assaults occurred on July 15 and 17, 2009 and Sept. 19, Oct. 7 and Oct. 14 last year.

The woman also told investigators Martinez took one or two photos of her genitals while she was in custody at Lawrence District Court.

She disclosed the incidents in December at a New Hampshire prison where she was incarcerated. Massachusetts state police were notified and arrested Martinez Wednesday.

Shackled and handcuffed, Martinez stood with his head down for his arraignment in the same courtroom where he is regularly on duty during his work day. He was flanked by several fellow court officers.

His wife, who also works at Lawrence District Court, and two adult daughters sat in the courtroom gallery during the arraignment late Wednesday afternoon.

Defense attorney Benjamin Duggan asked Judge Richard Savignano to release Martinez on personal recognizance, pointing to his lengthy employment at the courthouse and the respect he has from co-workers, attorneys and even inmates. 

Duggan questioned why state police were notified of the allegations in December, but waited to arrest Martinez three months later.

"These allegations are false and they are patently false," Duggan said. "It's too much to be believed. This did not happen ... This is a good man who's presumed innocent." 

Duggan also said in open court that the alleged victim is a drug user and a prostitute with a six-page criminal record.

According to a Massachusetts State Police report, the woman, who spoke of her heroin addiction and incarcerations, said "she was often flirtatious with court officers and they were flirtatious with her. She stated that she did this as she often curried favors by using this behavior."

Those favors were candy and cigarettes that court officers, including Martinez, would give to her, she said.

She described Jose to the troopers as "more pushy with the flirtation."

The alleged victim said Martinez had kissed her, groped her and raped her vaginally and digitally.

On one occasion in the lockup elevator, when Martinez was trying "to penetrate her" the woman told police "she could hear other court officers talking randomly in the hallway," according to the police report.

When the elevator started to move, the woman said Martinez zipped up his pants and "as the elevator door opened, she believed that the other court officers had to have observed him/her disheveled."

When shown a photo of the woman, Martinez told investigators that "he knew her from coming into court" but that "he never had any sexual contact with (the woman) in the lockup area or outside of the court."

According to the police report, "Martinez stated that his wife works in the court and eluded to it being not advisable on his part to be having sex with his wife in the building. Martinez stated he would never have sexual contact with any custody/inmate as he knows it is wrong." 

Martinez is due back in court on March 23 for a probable cause hearing.

Jill Harmacinski writes for the Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass. 

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