Martin Burnett takes Alford plea in rape, sex abuse case


By Anthony Baker - abaker@aimmediamidwest.com



EATON — A Montgomery County man entered an Alford plea to charges of rape, a first-degree felony, in Preble County Common Pleas Court Monday afternoon. Additional counts of rape and gross sexual imposition were dismissed in accordance with an agreement between the defendant and the Preble County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.

Martin R. Burnett, 59, formerly of Lakengren, claimed under questioning by Judge Stephen R. Bruns that he was entering the plea to avoid the possibility of receiving two life sentences if convicted at trial. The two dismissed counts carry a “violent sexual predator” designation, making each eligible to command a life sentence.

Under the terms of an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but merely acknowledges that enough evidence exists to convict them at trial. The charge to which Burnett chose to plead carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years incarceration and a maximum sentence of 11 years.

Burnett will also be designated a Tier III Sex Offender, meaning that once released, he will be required to register his address with authorities in his county of residence every 90 days for the remainder of his life.

Judge Bruns asked Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Eric Marit if the alleged victim in Burnett’s case, or the victim’s family, had voiced objections to the plea. Marit said he had met extensively with the victim and her parents and that neither had voiced an objection.

According to Marit, a female relative of Burnett came forward in May 2017 and alleged that Burnett had touched her inappropriately during several family events which took place at a local church, as well as forcing her to engage in oral sex on at least three separate occasions. These offenses allegedly date back to when the victim was six years old.

Burnett’s previous record includes convictions for child pornography. Burnett was charged with 36 counts of child pornography in Feb. 2013. Pornographic images and stories written by the defendant describing sex acts involving children were discovered on Burnett’s computer after he took it to a local business to have the hard drive repaired.

Some of those stories, according to Marit, included pornographic images of children with the faces of the victim and her siblings digitally superimposed.

Judge Bruns accepted Burnett’s plea and ordered a pre-sentencing investigation. Burnett was released on bond; his next court appearance is a final disposition hearing, to be held Feb. 11.

Also in court this week:

Anthony W. Lawson, 55, of Eaton, was sentenced on charges of aggravated possession of drugs and illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse onto the grounds of a specified governmental facility, namely the Preble County Jail.

Lawson’s attorney, Bridget Woolum, claimed that her client’s long criminal record was a result of a lifetime struggle with addiction.

“The fact that he’s had multiple convictions is not too surprising, as he’s never been given the opportunity to learn how to deal with his addiction,” Woolum told the court before sentence was handed down.

Lawson expressed similar sentiments.

“If you offer me this chance, I won’t throw it away,” Lawson said.

Bruns sentenced Lawson to three years of community control on each count, with a cumulative five years of incarceration waiting to be imposed if the defendant fails to comply with the terms of his probation.

“The state made a fairly persuasive case for a prison sentence,” Bruns told Lawson. “So you’ve got a big stick hanging over your head. You have an opportunity in front of you, but with fairly grave consequences if you fail to take advantage of it.”

Logan W. Rector, 25, of Richmond, was sentenced for community control violation on underlying charges of aggravated possession of drugs.

“You’ve been the subject of a great deal of conversation between the probation department and myself,” Judge Bruns told the defendant. “And I can tell you they are getting very frustrated with your failure to follow through. They’re starting to feel like we’re running out of options.”

Bruns ultimately, “with some reluctance,” chose to extend Rector’s probation for an additional year. Her next court appearance is a review hearing, to be held March 11, to determine her compliance with the terms of her sentence. Rector is currently undergoing substance abuse treatment at a facility in Butler County.

“You’re on the thinnest ice you could possibly be on,” Bruns warned the defendant.

Joseph H. Hodapp, 30, was sentenced on charges of aggravated possession of drugs. Judge Bruns placed the defendant on probation for a period of three years, with 12 months incarceration waiting to be imposed if he violates the terms of his sentence. Hodapp must also pursue substance abuse treatment, pay court costs and attorney fees, and seek and maintain employment.

By Anthony Baker

abaker@aimmediamidwest.com