On March 14th, 2017, Austin Martin – 27-year-old former Stephan Decatur High School teacher – was acquitted on Tuesday afternoon from a sex abuse of a minor.
He was facing one count of sex abuse of a minor following an exchange of inappropriate text messages between him and a former student. The former student was 17 years of age at the time the alleged crime was committed.
John Phoebus, a Salisbury criminal defense attorney for Martin, declared on Tuesday in court that the relationship between his client and the student was “wrong, but not criminal.”
“He’s extremely relieved,” said Attorney Phoebus to 47 ABC News. “He’s thankful. Facing criminal charges is an awful, horrible thing.”
The prosecution argued Martin used his role as a teacher to take advantage of his relationship with the former student. During opening statements, The Office of the Worcester County State’s Attorney addressed that texts started off as casual but became sexually explicit.
State prosecutors claim that there were over 3,500 text messages and a total of 39 photos exchanged between Martin and the former student. The prosecution’s argument revolved around the text messages exchanged between June 2016 and November 2016.
However, during the defense’s opening statements, although Phoebus informed the jury that his client’s actions were considered immoral, he indicated that the majority of these inappropriate text exchanges occurred during the summer season. According to state law, Phoebus explained that Martin is not considered a teacher during the summer, despite engaging in wrongful behavior with a student.
The victim, who is now 18, testified that she had met Martin in her first year of high school, but then grew closer to him by her junior year. She told the court that she considered him as “a therapist,” entrusting his support regarding her personal issues.
Martin was terminated from Stephan Decatur High School in December 2016.
If you were arrested and charged with a sex crime in Maryland, schedule a case evaluation with our Salisbury criminal defense lawyer at Anthenelli, Phoebus & Hickman, LLC today. We have successfully represented thousands of clients!