Sky Martel faces 30 counts
PINETOP LAKESIDE—Sky Martel, 21, a gifted runner and athlete, faces 30 child sex crimes charges in the Navajo County Superior Court. Martel had been widely lauded for overcoming family tragedy through track sports. The Independent’s sports writer Andy Staten wrote in November, 2014 how Martel, then a freshman in high school, and his older brother, Doug, had been holding the family together after their mother Velma Parker Martel suffered a debilitating stroke at a time when their father Buddy, only had sporadic work.
Adding to the family’s tragedy was their father’s death in August, 2017. Buddy Martel, 52, was shot and killed by an armored truck guard at HonDah casino in August, 2017, after he allegedly sprayed the guard with a noxious fluid when the guard was making a delivery there.
This month, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office completed a four-month long investigation and a grand jury handed up its indictment charging Martel with 15 counts of sexual conduct with a minor; 11 counts of furnishing harmful materials to a minor; three counts each of aggravated luring a minor for sexual exploitation and sexual exploitation of a minor, according to NCSO. Court records list a slightly different number of charges. Martel was arrested in a motel in Flagstaff on March 10 and is being held in the Navajo County Jail on a no-bond hold.
With regard to child sex crimes, Arizona law draws a very bright line at the age of 15. If a minor victim is 15 years or older, the class of felony and special sentencing laws treat the convicted person more leniently than a situation wherein the minor victim is under the age of 15. At the moment, because this case is in its early stages, there is little information in court records.
However, Martel’s 15 charges of sexual conduct with a minor are classified as Class 2 felonies. That means that the government believes the alleged victim in the case was either under 15 years old, or the alleged victim was 15 years old or older, but that the accused was in a position of trust with the minor. By contrast, if a victim is 15 years old or over, the same conduct is classified only as a Class 6 Felony, the least serious of all the felonies.
A charge of aggravated luring a minor for sexual exploitation requires proof of two things: that the accused used an electronic communication to send a visual image “harmful to minors” and offers or solicits sexual conduct. It’s a Class 2 felony regardless of the age of the victim, but harsh mandatory sentencing laws apply if the victim is under 15. Martel was charged with three counts of that, but the age of the alleged victim is not known. The reason the charge is called “aggravated,” is because the means of transmittal was allegedly by electronic — like a computer or mobile device.
Then there are the allegations of the exploitation itself, not merely the luring part, which requires proof of recording and then distributing “any visual depiction” of a minor “engaged in sexual exploitation or other sexual conduct,” says the law. Like the luring charge, that it is a Class 2 felony regardless of the victim’s age, but for those under 15, sentencing provisions are much stronger. Martel was charged with three counts of that, as well.
Finally, Martel faces 11 counts of furnishing harmful materials to a minor. According the NCSO, the harmful material in this case is alleged to be pictures of Martel in the nude. They are Class 4 felonies.
Conviction on some or all of the charges carry the possibility of a life sentence.
Of the thousands of criminal charges filed in the Navajo County Superior Court every year, not all of them are proven true; that would be a statistical impossibility. Martel is presumed by law to be innocent.