MICHIGAN CITY – A local man convicted of soliciting a minor for sexual contact when he was 24 and she was 14 upset the judge during argued sentencing Thursday.
When asked what he had to say for himself nearly a month after a jury convicted him of child solicitation, Martel Allen Toy, now 26, simply said, “I'm accountable for my actions and everything.”
But then he began to complain about the inadequate medical care he’s received since being incarcerated at the La Porte County Jail – no doctor’s consultation, no access to the meds he requires for his multiple medical issues.
Judge Michael Bergerson, incredulous, interrupted him.
"I can't believe it. Mr. Toy, time out. All I've heard about so far – it's all about you. I can't do this; I've got this problem. Stop it,” he shouted.
Defense attorney Mark Woodcox took over.
"I know it would sound better coming from Martel, but I can assure the court that in the conversations I have had with Martel, he has expressed remorse, and he understands that what he did was wrong," Woodcox said.
He said his client had never been in trouble with the law prior to this case, and his nervousness was coming through in his statements.
Woodcox also explained that Toy suffers from various medical issues, like Crohn’s and liver diseases, and that the jail staff was “pushing Tylenol on” him despite his condition.
Toy’s mother also addressed the court on her son’s behalf, noting that he grew up in church with her and had never had any behavioral issues.
However, she said, he does have a learning disability that caused him to need special education. He has an 11th grade education and continues to live at home with his parents.
“I just want to apologize,” the woman said to the judge. “... My son has never put himself in a position like this. I also see the victim's mother back there. I would like to apologize to her, too.”
The victim’s mother, who originally declined to testify, changed her mind after Toy’s mother spoke.
“I forgive Martel,” she said. “I don't like his actions; I don't like what occurred. But, Martel, I forgive you.”
She explained that she and Toy’s mother share grandchildren through the victim’s older sister and Toy’s older brother.
“This is a difficult situation for me because my daughter was underage; Martel is family to my family,” she said. “... As a parent, I had to do what I had to do to protect my child.”
Woodcox indicated to the court that even the victim’s mother had asked for leniency in Toy’s sentencing, and her testimony confirmed it.
"I do think Martel should have took the probation he was offered,” she said, referring to a plea agreement Toy rejected prior to facing a jury trial. “I don't want to see him die in jail. He is my grandchildren's uncle. I do believe that Martel is sorry. He has apologized to me personally before. I do know that there is a disconnect, as his mother said."
It was the victim’s mother who originally contacted police in January 2018 about the illegal relationship she’d discovered via messages on her daughter’s cell phone.
Michigan City Police noted in their reports that the daughter consistently denied any such relationship existed and has been otherwise uncooperative, despite video evidence that apparently shows Toy and the victim kissing in public.
Her mother told the court that the case has caused the girl to behave in a hostile manner toward her parents.
"She's become very aggressive to me and her father,” she said. “She acts like she hates me because of the situation."
Woodcox asked for a fully suspended sentence of probation for his client, or one that could be served on Community Corrections, which offers programs like GPS monitoring and work release.
Deputy Prosecutor Elizabeth Boehm said that although Toy’s lack of criminal history is a mitigating circumstance, his poor health is not. She noted that the Indiana Department of Correction is equipped to manage his health issues, and that it is legally required to do so should he be incarcerated.
Boehm said she does believe some prison time is appropriate, but deferred to the judge on the amount.
A Level 4 felony conviction carries a penalty of 2-12 years in Indiana. And Toy will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
The plea agreement Toy refused to take, insisting on facing a jury, offered him probation, and he would not have had to register as a sex offender.
Bergerson took Toy’s sentence under advisement Thursday, and scheduled the case to return to La Porte Superior Court 1 for sentence pronouncement on Sept. 26. He also issued a no-contact order prohibiting Toy from contacting the victim.