Prosecutors: Manchester judge stole 3x more in court fines than previously reported
A Manchester Town judge who ordered people to pay up for traffic and other infractions has been indicted for stealing that money.
13WHAM News had exclusive camera access to the courtroom where we learned the alleged theft is three times higher than first reported.
Prosecutors say Judge Erika Martin pocketed the money beginning the very first month as her swearing in - which was January 2016. Additional thefts happened through December of that year, prosecutors said.
"The funds were paid from people all over the state and even in a few cases from out of state," said Ontario County District Attorney Mike Tantillo.
The money came from traffic fines and other court surcharges. Prosecutors say the thefts totaled $9,000.
Judge Martin pleaded not guilty to a single count of three-degree grand larceny. Her attorney said she had no intention of taking a plea deal or pleading guilty.
"This case is going to be wrought with book keeping errors," said defense attorney Jason Housel. He contends the town used a flawed process for collecting, handling and depositing the cash.
"This isn't a situation where Ms. Martin is a bank teller taking in people's money and depositing it into a bank account," Housel said. "I don't think there was an adequate investigation into the other people who may have had their hands on these funds."
District Attorney Tantillo would not discuss the evidence other than to say it was sufficient enough to get an indictment.
In granting cameras in the courtroom, Ontario County Judge William Kocher overrode objections by the defense that this case is about a small town and the presence of the media would make it difficult to get an impartial jury. The defense also indicated they may seek a change of venue.
13WHAM News fought for access because Judge Martin is a public figure who was elected into a position of public trust.
"It's always troubling when you have an allegation against someone in a position of responsibility like this because we all rely on these people to do the job in the right way," said Tantillo.
Martin is the first woman justice to serve in Manchester, Ontario County. She is a former probation officer. She is one of two justices and has been relieved of her duties pending the outcome of the case.
Martin is scheduled to return to court in December.