On April 23, a man and woman who were once Mecosta County Township officials pleaded no contest to charges stemming from an investigation into sexual assault and child abuse, according to a news article at Mlive.com. 48-year-old Cathleen Martin pleaded no contest to third-degree child abuse, while 71-year-old Jack Bark pleaded no contest to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Both Martin and Bark resigned their positions with the township just after the sexual allegations were revealed. Martin was the township’s clerk, while Bark was Fork Township supervisor. Each of the two was employed by the township for approximately 20 years. While Martin is married to another man according to authorities, she and Bark reportedly live together in Barryton.
Prior to pleading no contest to the charges, Bark and Martin were facing multiple charges which included first-degree criminal sexual conduct, the most serious sex charge in Michigan which involves penetration. Bark was also facing second-degree CSC while Martin was facing charges of first- and second-degree child abuse. Bark and Martin are alleged to have begun assaulting three of Martin’s relatives in 2009. A sentencing date had not been revealed at the time of news reports, although the two defendants were lodged on a $5 million bond.
No-contest pleas are treated as guilty pleas for the purpose of sentencing, but are not an admission of guilt by the defendant.
Michigan sex crime defense attorneys understand that there are situations in which it is more beneficial for someone accused of a crime to plead guilty or no contest rather than go to trial. How a defendant proceeds often hinges on the amount and strength of evidence, and whether that person is actually guilty or innocent. In the above situation, a guilty verdict on the initial charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct would have left the defendants facing the possibility of life in prison. Bark pleaded no contest to fourth-degree CSC, which is punishable by up to two years in prison and potential fines.
There are many cases in which a defendant should vigorously fight the charges; in these cases, it is critical to obtain the legal support and guidance of a seasoned Michigan sex crime lawyer who is a skilled and aggressive trial lawyer. If you or someone you know has been accused of sexual assault or abuse, contact a highly qualified defense attorney immediately.