A Vermont Superior Court judge denied bail last week for a 52-year-old Colchester man accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boy.
Paul A. Martell is charged with two counts of sexually assaulting a victim under 13 and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of two life sentences in prison.
Judge Michael Kupersmith accepted Chittenden County deputy state’s attorney Dana DiSano’s motion to hold Martell without bail after a 90-minute hearing last Thursday that included police testimony and a recorded interview with the victim.
Martell, a convicted sex offender who previously served 12 years, entered the courtroom wearing a teal jumpsuit, his hands and feet shackled. He swiveled his chair to look at his family in the gallery several times during the proceeding.
The hearing began with testimony from Chittenden Unit for Special Investigation detective Donald Demar.
Demar said the victim’s therapist called the Vt. Department for Children and Families’ emergency line after hours to report a boy had reported Martell touched him inappropriately.
Hospital staff said Martell was admitted the day prior for an overdose, the detective testified. Court records show Colchester police responded to a call from Martell’s ex-wife reporting a suicide attempt at the residence March 22.
Martell told police he took three or four pills of the antidepressant trazodone, court records show.
Demar and Detective Nick Holden interviewed Martell at the hospital March 23. Martell said he knew why they were there, Demar testified.
During the interview, which Demar estimates took 15 to 20 minutes, Martell said he took the pills after being confronted by his ex-wife, to whom he’d confessed the boy’s accusations were true. Martell also admitted the abuse to detectives, Demar testified.
Martell’s attorney, Jasdeep Pannu, focused most of his cross-examination on Martell’s state of mind. He asked if treatment for the overdose was discussed with any hospital staff.
Demar said it wasn’t but that detectives asked Martell to state the date and president’s name. And, before the interview, Demar said a nurse told Holden that Martell was ready to be released.
Yet Pannu pointed to Martell’s behavior — he dozed off during the interview about four times, Demar said — to question his client’s coherence during the confession.
“Mr. Martell could have been under 800 mg of OxyContin for all we know,” Pannu said.
Demar said there were no indications Martell didn’t understand detectives’ questions.
In her redirect, DiSano asked if details in Martell’s confession matched the boy’s accusations, such as where the abuse occurred and how often. Demar said it did.
Later in the hearing, DiSano played a video showing Demar’s interview with the victim at the CUSI offices last week. The boy is seen sitting on the floor behind a couch for most of the 32-minute video.
Martell occasionally looked at the video before returning his gaze to the table in front of him. Once, he slightly rose from his seat to grab a pen, writing down notes he eventually slid to Pannu.
After the video, Pannu requested Martell be released to stay with his mother in St. Albans on “strict conditions,” including a 24-hour curfew and GPS monitor.
DiSano said she had “serious concerns” about Martell’s release given his past criminal history, which includes a 2003 conviction for two counts of sexual assault on child under 16.
Kupersmith sided with DiSano.
“I don’t think any conditions could be strict enough,” the judge said.