Convicted rapist goes free because of court backlog

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PORT ORCHARD — It was considered such a brutal crime that the suspect, Joseph Martin, was given the maximum prison sentence of 28 years. But the Port Orchard man convicted of rape and other charges won’t serve that sentence — in fact, he’s free.

“I can tell you that to a person in the Superior Court, we’re disappointed and saddened by the outcome of this,” Frank Maiocco, the court administrator for Kitsap County said.

In 2011, prosecutors thought they had an open and shut case. Police said Martin violated a restraining order to stay away from the victim, who he then raped and imprisoned. Parts of the brutal attack were recorded on his cell phone.

“That phone had been accidentally activated and information, verbal audio, from that assault was available to the sheriff’s office,” Scott Wilson, with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department said.

After he was found guilty, the judge handed down the maximum sentence. But when Martin appealed, the Kitsap County court struggled to find a judge to hear the case. One judge had passed away, another had retired.

At the same time, the Kitsap courts were handling several high-profile trials, including the school shooting that nearly killed Amina Bowman and the murder of Trooper Tony Radalescu. Martin’s case kept getting pushed back, and this week the State Court of Appeals ruled that Martin’s right to a speedy trial was violated and tossed out all of his convictions.

“What the victim is seeing is a person who perpetrated this crime against them, who is walking out on what they would term a technicality,” Wilson said.

Maiocco calls it “a tragedy — it’s the one that we bear” and admits they could have borrowed judges from other jurisdictions to cover the backlog. It’s one of the key reasons the Court of Appeals found the court at fault. 

Maiocco said nothing like this has happened before and he doesn’t expect it to happen again.

“We have to refocus ourselves based on the direction of the Court of Appeals and we have to adhere to their direction. That’s our commitment to the victim in this case and all cases.”

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