MICHIGAN CITY – After turning down a plea deal that would have allowed him to avoid jail time and having to register as a sex offender, a 24-year-old Michigan City man accused of soliciting a 14-year-old girl for sexual contact now faces up to 12 years in prison.
Martel Toy was convicted by a jury Wednesday of child solicitation, a Level 4 felony, and remanded to the custody of the La Porte County Sheriff's Department. He is scheduled to return to La Porte Superior Court 1 for sentencing on Sept. 5.
On May 30, the state offered Toy a plea agreement that would have called for him to plead guilty to sexual misconduct with a minor – a Level 6 felony – in exchange for a sentence of probation.
At that time, Deputy Prosecutor Elizabeth Boehm informed the court the state had video evidence of Toy kissing the minor girl inside a local restaurant.
Defense attorney Timothy Lemon said his client was hesitant to accept the deal because it called for him to testify that he had touched a child for the purpose of his own sexual gratification.
When Toy asked if he could have more time to think it over, Judge Michael Bergerson denied the request and scheduled the Aug. 5 jury trial.
According to the probable cause affidavit in the case, Michigan City Police became aware of the relationship between Toy and the 14-year-old when her mother came to the station in January 2018 to report that she had found inappropriate conversations between the two on Facebook Messenger.
Detective Melissa Sopher wrote in the affidavit that in the screenshots she viewed of those conversations, Toy admitted to having touched the girl, having traveled to meet her, and having engaged in sexual activity with her.
In one conversation, the affidavit states, Toy asked the minor "when she would no longer like to be a virgin and tells her he would be the one to which she would lose it."
The document goes on to provide details of other conversations between Toy and the 14-year-old that Sopher says indicate their relationship was more intimate than platonic.
However, she notes, the girl denied any such relationship, and said even if it had occurred, she saw no problem with it.
The alleged victim was not called to testify before the jury, which still returned a guilty verdict.
Upon completion of his sentence, to be determined by the judge, Toy will be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years.