Amber Alert Suspect Bound Over for Trial; Bond Still $500,000 Cash
The Casper man accused of illegally taking of a 14-year-girl to Arizona prompting an AMBER Alert in November was bound over for trial in Natrona County District Court on Thursday, but not before his attorney asked for a lower bond.
James Warren Martin, 36, will be tried on 17 felony counts that, if convicted, could put him behind bars for life.
Public Defender Kurt Infanger told Natrona County Circuit Court Judge Nichole Collier that Martin waived his preliminary hearing during which the state presents evidence that a crime was committed and the defendant probably committed it.
Infanger also asked Collier to lower Martin's original cash-only $500,000 bond to a $100,000 cash or surety bond.
Infanger agreed that the no contact order with the alleged victim, for her safety, remain in place as part of the original bond.
But the bond amount should be lowered, he said.
The bond, set to guarantee a defendant's appearance in court, doesn't need to be $500,000 cash-only because Martin won't be going anywhere, Infanger said.
But Natrona County Assistant District Attorney Blaine Nelson said no. "The state strongly objects."
Nelson asked the no-contact order be extended to other family members of the alleged victim, as well as keeping the original bond in place.
He recounted some of the events leading up to the announcement of the AMBER Alert issued on Nov. 17 including Martin's sudden quitting of his job and taking out a payday loan.
Martin was apprehended in western Arizona, he intended to travel to Mexico to avoid extradition, and he could do it again, Nelson said.
"The risk of flight is high," he said. "The bond is right."
Nelson also said the FBI has filed federal charges in this case, but FBI and federal court databases did not list any charges filed against Martin as of Thursday afternoon.
Infanger responded that a lowered bond could require him to not leave Natrona County.
Collier reviewed some of the paperwork, and acknowledged that Martin has no criminal history,
But she said Infanger presented no new evidence and did not see any reason to change the bond.
On Dec. 30, Circuit Court Judge Brian Christensen read the 17 counts against Martin in his initial appearance:
- Five counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, with each count punishable by up to 50 years imprisonment.
- Four counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, with each count punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.
- Four count of third-degree sexual abuse of minor, with each count punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.
- Three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, with each count punishable by between five and 12 years imprisonment.
- One count of felony interference with custody, punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
The alleged crimes occurred from Sept. 15, 2021, to Oct. 31, 2022, Christensen said.
The case started on Oct. 18 when the girl's guardian reported that Martin had been grooming the girl. The guardian noticed "weird behavior" between the two because of the amount of time they spent with each other and the girl didn't hang around with other kids or her family, according to the police affidavit.
A friend of the girl reported that she refused to skip school when the girl asked her to on Nov. 16, and that the girl said she would be picked up by someone. The friend also said the girl claimed to have a 17-year-old boyfriend but she never saw him or knew anything about him, according to the affidavit.
Subsequent attempts by Martin's family and friends to contact him were unsuccessful.
The AMBER Alert was announced on Nov. 17.
Martin and the girl were located later on Highway 95 in western Arizona by the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office. The Lake Havasu office of the Phoenix Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation responded to conduct the local investigation in Arizona.
The Casper Police Department said in a prepared statement that Martin waived extradition Arizona on Nov. 26, and was brought to Natrona County on Dec. 29.