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Corrections worker accused of coercion remains on leave

GRANITE FALLS — A crew leader for a Sentencing to Service program accused of coercing a female inmate to have sex in exchange for special privileges made an initial court appearance last week in Yellow Medicine County District Court.

Michael John Martin, 47, of Wood Lake, faces three felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct — force or coercion, and three felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct — a correctional employee.

Martin is an employee with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who supervised Yellow Medicine County prisoners while they were doing community service work.

An information officer with the Department of Corrections said Tuesday that Martin is currently on administrative leave.

According to the complaint filed against him, from August of 2016 through May of 2017, Martin allegedly asked a female prisoner to perform oral sex on him or have intercourse with him on several occasions.

The woman was an inmate at the Yellow Medicine County Jail for several short stints during that 10-month period and was under the supervision of Martin when working in the community on a Sentencing to Service crew.

The woman entered treatment May 30 at Project Turnabout, and when she told a counselor about being asked to perform sex on a corrections employee while incarcerated, the counselor informed law enforcement.

The complaint said Martin would get the woman alone and ask for sex.

Sometimes those acts were rewarded with special privileges not given to other prisoners, including cigarettes and pop.

According to the complaints, Martin allegedly took the woman to see her kids for short visits at her house but said it would "cost her," which meant demands to perform sexual acts.

On at least one occasion, the woman said the act took place in the Sentencing to Service van.

The woman told police that Martin warned her not to tell anyone about their sexual relationship because she would get in trouble and that he was a person with power and "knew people."

The woman said she was afraid that if she did not do what Martin wanted that she would get into trouble at the jail or not be taken to see her kids.

During a June 3 interview with a sheriff's deputy, Martin allegedly said the woman had performed oral sex on him three times, all in April of 2017, while she was working on the Sentencing to Service crew with him.

He denied having sexual intercourse with her or taking her to see her children but allegedly said he took her to her house to get things.

A settlement conference, during which the county attorney and defense attorney meet with the judge to explore a possible plea agreement, is scheduled for July 31.

Yellow Medicine Assistant County Attorney Stacy Vinberg said a settlement conference is frequently used in the Eighth Judicial District as a tool to get both sides talking about a plea arrangement rather than scheduling numerous court hearings or going to trial.

Vinberg said settlement conferences have proven to be an effective means of moving cases through the process and that many cases are resolved in the district this way rather than going to trial.

Martin remains free on $10,000 conditional bail.

Judge Dwayne Knutsen agreed to allow Martin to travel to numerous rodeos this summer in a multistate area to accompany a family member who competes in the rodeo circuit.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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