Attorney calls Wyoming basketball player, defendant 'a victim' after court hearing

2013-03-06T13:00:00Z 2013-05-29T20:58:40Z Attorney calls Wyoming basketball player, defendant 'a victim' after court hearingBy BEN FREDERICKSON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

LARAMIE — Wyoming men’s basketball player Luke Martinez pleaded not guilty to a felony count of aggravated assault and battery at his arraignment in 2nd District Court Wednesday morning, his response to a charge that stems from his involvement in a Dec. 31 bar fight in downtown Laramie.

During the court appearance that took less than 10 minutes, Judge Jeffrey Donnell set a jury trial for Aug. 26 through 28. After the hearing, Martinez’s attorney, Tom Fleener, addressed Martinez’s situation for the first time publicly.

“Luke is a victim here,” Fleener said. “He’s lost his college basketball career. He wasn’t the aggressor that night. This was a bar fight in a college town. No weapons were used. While the injuries were certainly unfortunate, Luke is the one who is truly suffering today.”

According to an affidavit of probable cause obtained after Martinez’s Jan. 13 arrest, the 22-year old admitted to police that he kicked a man in the face outside of the Buckhorn in the early-morning hours of Dec. 31. That man later underwent surgery to wire shut a broken jaw.

In the affidavit, Martinez did tell authorities he was punched in the face by the man.

The same affidavit also cited three witnesses, employees of the Buckhorn, who say Martinez moved toward then kicked the male victim in the face after Wyoming sophomore backup forward Derek Cooke Jr. knocked the victim out with a punch. One witness said the kick “looked like a perfect soccer kick.” A witness also said Martinez kicked the victim “with such force that it made me sick.”

But the statements Fleener made in front of two TV cameras and a small group of reporters outside of the Albany County Courthouse painted a different picture.

Fleener told the group those involved with the case were placed under a gag order Wednesday, but officials with the Albany County Courthouse later told the Star-Tribune that no order was issued on the case.

Fleener said he believes the understanding of the events are inaccurate.

“We do have the right to correct the record,” Fleener said. “The record has certainly indicated that Luke was the aggressor in this bar fight. We are clear the evidence, when it does come out, will show he was retreating and was not the aggressor at all.”

“Luke was out with a teammate,” Fleener added. “There were between five and seven 27-year old men that got into a bar fight. It happens.”

Martinez, shielded from the wind in a University of Wyoming jacket, also made his first public comments since his arrest.

“It’s been tough,” he said. “I’m just hoping for the best and keep praying. That’s it.”

Martinez declined to speak about how his indefinite suspension has affected his team (he averaged 14.5 points and three rebounds per game for the Cowboys before his arrest). But he did say he will not be participating in UW’s senior night Wednesday, a ceremony that will take place before the Cowboys play their final home game of the season against Colorado State.

Fleener declined to say if plea options have been discussed with prosecuting attorney Joshua Merseal. He said Martinez will likely testify in August, but he added that his goal is to find a resolution before that time.

“I hope this case resolves itself, and we don’t have to go to trial,” Fleener said. “No one wants a jury trial, neither the man who got hit, or Luke. Hopefully, we will be able to settle this mess. But, if not, I guess we will be going to trial in August.”

If found guilty, Martinez could face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Reach reporter Ben Frederickson at Follow him on Twitter @Ben_Fred.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. injustice
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    injustice - March 09, 2013 9:29 pm
    I do not see how this college player will get a fair hearing in this small Wyoming town -- still think of the poor victims who have had Wyoming's elitist citizens punish them because they are not part of the chosen citizenship This story makes me think of Matthew Shephard's punishment for being gay in Wyoming. Very sad.
  2. supercalifragilistic
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    supercalifragilistic - March 07, 2013 4:59 pm
    Sounds to me like some people started a fight with the basketball players and got their rears handled to them and in one case got his mouth shut at the end. I'd been told many times before this incident that, Laramie is not the best environment for a major university, too many loud mouth angry locals.
    As the locals won;t support any of the athletic programs there or War Memorial would fill as would the double A. At least that's the way it looks to me ...
  3. Pops
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    Pops - March 07, 2013 10:12 am
    Just say'n,
    A target?
  4. just sayin'
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    just sayin' - March 07, 2013 9:36 am
    If he is the victim, what do we call the unconscious man who he kicked soccer style in the head?
  5. Sassy
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    Sassy - March 07, 2013 5:15 am
    he wont go to jail
  6. Jeffrey
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    Jeffrey - March 06, 2013 5:13 pm
    Maybe we'll get to see how tuff he is in prison!
  7. Jeffrey
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    Jeffrey - March 06, 2013 4:59 pm
    Talks cheap when you're not the one who got kicked in the head!
  8. Wizard of Death
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    Wizard of Death - March 06, 2013 4:11 pm
    This is a real bad ass kick a guy in the head when he is KOed on his back in a parking lot.Would like to see what he could do with some one on his feet,,,,,
  9. Uinta
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    Uinta - March 06, 2013 2:33 pm
    I grew up in a sawmill town. There were a lot of bar fights. I can tell you that the first rule is, when you get the other guy down you make sure he stays down. There is none of this Hollywood stuff about standing back and saying "Get up." If you don't like that, don't get in a bar fight.
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