A judge sentenced Francine Martinez to six months in jail, June 2, to be served as house arrest for not intervening while her partner pistol whipped and choked a detained suspect. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

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.

Judge Cheryl Rowles-Stokes sentenced Francine Martinez to six months in jail, June 2, to be served as house arrest for not intervening while her partner pistol whipped and choked a detained suspect. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

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.

Kyle Vinson, left, stands with his attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in Denver. Aurora Officer John Haubert was arrested Monday on suspicion of attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault and felony menacing charges following a criminal investigation into the arrest last week of Vinson, who is biracial and identifies as Black. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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.”

Aurora Police body cam screen grabs that investigators say show Aurora Police Officer John Haubert pistol whipping and strangling a trespassing suspect July 23, 2012. Haubert and another officer face felony charges in the incident.

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.

A judge sentenced Francine Martinez to six months in jail, June 2, to be served as house arrest for not intervening while her partner pistol whipped and choked a detained suspect. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

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.”

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  1. It is incredibly painful to watch the justice system vilify two officers who were trying to arrest a felony suspect who tried to take an officer’s gun. For an investigator to have done such a poor investigation and a chief to have failed to insure a fair investigation at the expense of two officers is beyond belief. The detective filed charges before he even picked up a second surveillance video that showed the real extent of Vinson’s resistance. As far as I can determine, no one else saw the video and everyone trusted the detective’s statement that it showed little. This statement was not true, but as a result, the most important piece of evidence was not used in Officer Martinez’s trial. Her attorney was surprised when I told him that the video showed very active resistance by Vinson and grabs for the officer’s gun before he was hit. In several places, the officer had to rip his gun out of Vinson’s hand. An officer has little choice when he has his gun in his hand and a suspect is trying to take it. The law says that he can use deadly force. In Colorado, that is force that results in death. The righteous indignation against two officers who were trying to do their jobs is sickening. Martinez did not receive competent representation nor a fair trial.

  2. This just made police work even harder for cops who have already been made villains by today’s society. It’s easy for everyone to second guess this officer’s actions on that day. None of you were there, and have no clue of the totality of the situation. This officer’s career was ruined by another worthless officer’s actions. He will be held accountable for what he did that day. This officer did not deserve any of this. Anyone who remains on APD is taking a grave risk with their lives and lively hood. This conviction just opened the door for prosecuting more cops in the future based on subjective opinions by people who do not know anything about police work.

  3. She did deserve it. I worked in Corrections for 23 years and I can count multiple situation where I stopped a coworker from going overboard and risking their career and freedom. They were upset with me at first, but always thanked me later for protecting their career. It’s easy to lose your cool when dealing with criminal scum, but you have to remain professional and keep your cool and not go overboard. I’m not saying she had to tackle him to the ground, but a simple tap on the shoulder or something, at least make it look like you are trying to defuse it.

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