|Former Gallatin County Sheriff Raymond Martin was sentenced to two life prison terms today.|
Calling a disgraced Illinois sheriff “the worst of humanity,” a federal judge on Wednesday sentenced him to life in prison for trafficking marijuana on the job and a foiled plot to have a potential witness killed.
Former Sheriff Raymond Martin should be harshly punished, U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert said, calling the longtime sheriff of southern Illinois’ Gallatin County “nothing but a common thief and thug who disregarded the very laws that you swore to uphold, defend, protect and honor, reports Jim Suhr of The Associated Press.
“You could have likely been sheriff until you decided to retire,” the judge scolded Martin, who was kicked out of office within days of his conviction last September of all 15 felony counts with which he was charged. “But no, you couldn’t stand prosperity, and your arrogance, greed and power got the best of you.”
“I believe in your mind your only regret is that you got caught,” the judge said. “You represent the worst of humanity.”
Martin’s lack of visible contrition seemed to anger the judge. Moments before being given two life terms on weapons charges — along with numerous 10- and five-year terms on other counts — the former sheriff had pledged to appeal, claiming more documents and witnesses could have acquitted him.
“Your Honor, I come before you today not claiming to be no angel but can assure you I’m not the man prosecutors are trying to portray me as,” said the verbally challenged Martin, 48, denying he ever plotted to have anyone killed.
“In all my years as a judge, I have never seen a criminal case where the evidence of guilt was so overwhelming,” responded the judge, who also fined Martin $50,000 for good measure, and swatted down the former sheriff’s request to be allowed free while he appealed.
Martin, who had been elected four times and served as sheriff for almost 20 years, has been in jail since May 2009, when federal agents hauled him out of his office in Shawneetown on charges of selling marijuana. Despite that and his subsequent plotting — from behind bars — to have potential witnesses killed, Martin kept his job as sheriff and still got paid his $40,000 yearly salary until last September when the county fired him after his conviction.
Though Martin had the legal right to keep his job as sheriff pending trial, federal prosecutor Jim Cutchin said Wednesday that the former sheriff should have stepped down as the morally right thing to do. While behind bars, Martin collected $68,087 in salary and benefits from the cash-strapped, drug-plagued county, along with a state stipend of about $4,200, according to county records.
John O’Gara, Martin’s attorney, asked the judge for a 30-year sentence, calling that “sufficient but not greater than necessary to punish him.”
“You do not need to sign a piece of paper to consign him to death in the Bureau of Prisons,” O’Gara said, insisting Martin “has a great capacity for caring” and should not get a life term.
Martin’s attorney agreed with prosecutors that the former sheriff would forfeit to the federal government his home and more than $75,000 in other assets. When arrested, Martin had almost $105,000 in cash in his basement safe, and $19,000 in his then-wife’s workplace safe, according to investigators.
A Drug Enforcement Administration agent said that Martin supplied a drug dealer, then threatened to kill him when the man said he wanted out of the deal, saying “making him disappear” would be easy. The then-sheriff also threatened the dealer by saying he could “make up a crime” against him and pledged to use his power to shut down rival dealers, according to prosecutors.
Federal investigators said the dealer let law enforcement record his conversations with Martin over a period of several weeks because he was scared of the sheriff’s threats.
Even after Martin was jailed on drug counts, he masterminded a scheme to have two potential witnesses assaulted and possibly killed, according to investigators. None of the witnesses were ultimately harmed.
Martin enlisted his then-wife, Kristina Martin, 37, and 21-year-old son Cody Martin in his plot to offer two cellmates as much as $17,000 to kill the witnesses — even supplying them with a detailed map to the targets’ homes, authorities said. Raymond and Kristina Martin have since divorced.
“Words cannot adequately describe how despicable it was for what you did to your son, Cody,” Judge Gilbert told Martin. “Animals protect their young more than you did yours.”
The alleged plot fell apart when one of the two would-be hit men reported the plan to law enforcement, according to witness testimony.
The sheriff’s wife and son pleaded not guilty to murder solicitation charges in Jackson County. Kristina’s trial is set to begin Monday; no trial date has been set for Cody.