AURORA | The former Aurora police officer who failed to intervene when her police partner pistol-whipped and choked a man during a 2021 arrest was sentenced to six months in jail Friday — to be served as house arrest.
Francine Martinez was sentenced Friday for failing to intervene in another officer’s excessive use of force, the first charge of its kind to go to trial after it became a misdemeanor offense under Colorado’s sweeping 2020 police reform bill. Martinez was found guilty by a jury in April.
The charge stemmed from a July 2021 incident when Martinez and former officer John Haubert responded to a trespassing call in the 3100 block of South Parker Road. At the scene, the officers detained 29-year-old Kyle Vinson and two other men on outstanding felony warrants.
While attempting to take Vinson into custody, Haubert became increasingly aggressive, pressing the barrel of his pistol against Vinson’s head and then striking him with it at least a dozen times. He then put his hands around Vinson’s neck, strangling him for at least 39 seconds.
At one point in the body camera footage released by APD Haubert can be heard yelling at Vinson, “If you move, I will shoot you.”
Martinez was visibly emotional after the sentence was handed down by Judge Cheryl Rowles-Stokes in Arapahoe County Court Friday afternoon. She was also ordered to pay $500 in restitution.
Martinez’s attorney David Goddard said that her lawyers are currently evaluating whether to file an appeal, and for that reason he had advised her not to speak at the sentencing. A number of her friends and colleagues submitted letters of support to the judge in advance of the hearing.
Vinson nor his attorneys were not present at the sentencing.
The penalties for the misdemeanor offense ranged from just probation to six to 18 months in jail.
Goddard asked for probation in the case, and said that he did not think a jail sentence would be appropriate for Martinez, who he argued was at low risk of recidivism and has already suffered significant consequences, including being fired from APD and losing her Peace Officer Standards and Training certification.
Due to being the first case of its kind to go to trial, Martinez also “endured significant public criticism and scrutiny” that will stay with her after any sentence, Goddard said.
He also argued that she showed compassion for Vinson by calling for medical backup at the scene.
“You’ve heard a lot about Ms. Martinez on arguably her worst day in a very tough situation,” he said. “But prior to this incident she had a decorated career, served with honor, saved people’s lives, both literally and figuratively.”
Prosecutor Brian Sugioka said that Martinez’s failure to take action in the moment justified a jail sentence. There are times when officers have to make difficult, split-second decisions, Sugioka acknowledged. However, this was not one of those times.
“This was not a close call,” he said. “This was an officer standing by during a three-minute beating and doing nothing.”
Martinez didn’t have to be a “hero” and attack Hobart or wrestle his gun away from him, Sugioka said. She could have simply asked him to stop what he was doing — but she didn’t.
“This was an utter, abject failure or this obligation,” he said.
Sugioka’s request was contradictory to Vinson’s own thoughts on sentencing, who Sugioka said in an earlier conversation had told him he wasn’t seeking for Martinez to go to jail.
Rowles-Stokes declined Goddard’s request for Martinez to be sentenced to probation, saying it’s main function is intended to be rehabilitation and she didn’t understand what she would be rehabilitating in this case.
The lack of probation also meant she did not consider a request from the prosecution for Martinez to be barred from certain employment. It was not immediately clear in court whether Martinez’s conviction for failure to intervene means she will permanently lose her POST certification or if she could at one point regain it and resume work as a police officer.
Goddard argued that certification was at the discretion of the POST board and it would not be legal for Rowles-Stokes to make that a condition of probation.
When sentencing Martinez to jail, Rowles-Stokes echoed some of Sugioka’s remarks about the incident, which she said was a clear example of excessive force.
She also criticized Martinez, who worked as an EMT for a number of years before becoming a police officer, for not drawing on that experience during the arrest.
“That training, it never went away,” she said. “But you did not employ it in this case to assist this man.”
She also acknowledged that in many professions, including policing, it can be difficult to criticize coworkers for their behavior but that it did not constitute an excuse.
When sentencing Martinez, Rowles-Stokes was clear that if she violates the terms of her house arrest, she will serve the rest of the sentence in the Arapahoe County Jail.
Vinson’s attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, said he hopes that the sentence acts as a deterrent and will help law enforcement officers “fully understand that they will be held accountable if they don’t intervene in the unlawful acts of colleagues.”
He said that Vinson is “not someone who seeks revenge or retribution” and noted that the consequences for Martinez, including losing her POST certification, are much greater than the criminal sentence.
“I know Kyle feels like he’s been heard and he’s been vindicated,” Mohamedbhai said. “The finding by the jury is what really mattered.”