Two 14-year-old boys testified in a Martinez courtroom today that their former teacher at Concord’s Woodside Elementary School put his hand down their shirts and fondled them during class and after-school hangouts.
Joseph Martin, 46, sat quietly next to his attorney today as his two former students and the parents of one of the boys took the stand in the second day of the trial against him.
The longtime elementary school teacher and married father of two is charged with 150 counts of child molestation involving 14 former students.
During his arrest , police searched Martin’s classroom and Martinez home and turned up a variety of evidence, including a letter he wrote to God.
On Monday, Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts shared the letter with the jury.
“Dearest Father,” he wrote, “Before this, I was living for myself only, I was living to gratify me, serve me and feed my sinful desires. I am a new man now and being that, I am so incredibly grateful … Please God, help me to not get arrested, not go to jail, and in the name of Jesus, not be charged with any crimes.”
Incarcerated since his arrest last year, Martin wore a gray pinstriped suit and listened intently, sometimes taking notes, as the teens spoke.
Both boys, referred to in court documents as John Doe 1 and John Doe 12, said Martin paid them special attention while they were in his class in both fourth and fifth grade, and as middle school students when he invited them for frequent after-school visits to his classroom.
Patrick Clancy, Martin’s defense attorney, painted his client as a dedicated teacher who helped motivate his students, and both teens said today that Martin’s classes were filled with fun activities. On “Magic Mornings,” the Woodside Elementary School teacher’s classroom came alive with songs, dancing and strobe lights, and he organized a variety of fun activities, the attorney said.
He showed the court glowing teacher evaluation letters from both boys. One wrote, “I love you…more than all the other teachers.”
Both boys said they liked the extra attention from Martin, whom they said would arrange for them to sit close to him during classroom activities. Hugs were frequent.
Many times, he would slip his hand down their T-shirts and massage their nipples and stomach area, the boys testified.
John Doe 12 said the teacher would have him sit between his legs and massaged his chest underneath his shirt while the class watched a movie.
“That shouldn’t have happened…but I was only in fourth or fifth grade and I didn’t know any better,” the teen said.
He said that during class meetings, Martin told students to speak with him privately if they had any problems with him, “because he didn’t want…to get a phone call from parents.”
Even after they left Woodside Elementary, Martin invited both boys to his classroom after school.
John Doe 1 testified that he would frequently play basketball with his former teacher and other boys as a sixth and seventh-grader.
After the games, Martin would sometimes change out of his clothes with the boys in the room, although he would tell them to go to a corner while he changed, the boy testified.
When John Doe 12 was in sixth grade, Martin called the boy’s mother to ask if he could give him private chess lessons in his classroom after school. During the lessons, the defendant would sometimes have him sit on his lap and massage him under his T-shirt while they watched videos on Martin’s computer, the teen testified.
The boy’s mother, who also testified in court today, said she initially appreciated the attention he paid her son and knew that he enjoyed Martin’s classes.
As he got older, Martin asked permission to take the boy on outings outside of the classroom – to the movies, the arcade or to his pool, she testified. Her son always came home from the outings with gifts including games, a pair of tennis shoes and clothing, she said.
Martin showed up at the family’s house on her son’s 13th birthday last March with a card and money, she said.
Shown to the court on an overhead projector Martin wrote in the card, “Thank you for always being so happy to see me and making me feel loved.”
When her son told her earlier this year that he didn’t want to see his former teacher anymore, Martin kept calling.
“Mr. Martin was persistent with the calls – calling again and again,” she said. “Sometimes he just appeared at our home with treats.”
After telling Martin on the phone that her son was too busy to see him, the defendant showed up at the family’s house hours later, looking for the boy, she testified.
During cross-examination today, Clancy asked the boys about the lawsuit their parents, along with several others, filed against Martin and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.
He also questioned the parents of John Doe 12 about the suit, which was filed last August.
“Are you hoping to make a bunch of money on this lawsuit?” the defense attorney asked the boy’s father.
The man said any money awarded in the suit would go to his son.
“The only thing I want to do…I want that he doesn’t come back to do the same thing,” the man testified.
Testimony in the trial is set to continue on Monday morning.