Mistrial Declared in Latest Case against North Bergen "Sexorcist"
By Michaelangelo Conte
May 8, 2018
Jurors could not reach verdict Tuesday afternoon, forcing a mistrial to be declared in the trial of the North Bergen "sexorcist" accused of using his stature as a "prophet" to sexually assault a young man 10 years ago.
Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina set June 5 as the tentative date for the retrial of Gregorio Martinez, 50, who faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
The former North Bergen pastor, who was convicted in 2015 of molesting a 13-year-old boy and faces two more trials on sex charges, appeared to be pleased by the declaration of a mistrial as he was led from court in handcuffs this afternoon.
Martinez, who is said to speak in tongues, is already serving four years in prison for the molestation and five years for bail jumping. The terms are consecutive.
The 50-year-old was out on bail at the time of the conviction when sentencing day rolled around, he was nowhere to be found. He was then tracked to Nicaragua in 2016 and arrested in Honduras.
"I was disappointed because there was no evidence other than the alleged victim in the case," Martinez's lawyer, Daniel Gonzalez said of the mistrial. "On cross examination, there were clear inconsistencies in his trial testimony and his original statement. There's no question that the trial testimony was embellished."
Gonzalez said his client is trying to clear his name so he was clearly disappointed by the mistrial. The attorney said it is a tough case for both the state and the defense and he would try his best to prepare even better for the retrial.
Authorities say that Martinez, who his followers say speaks in tongues, sexually assaulted the 27-year-old man when the alleged victim was 18 years old.
The jury began deliberating on Thursday around noon and by about the same time on Friday, jurors passed a note to the judge saying they were deadlocked. Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina asked the jurors to keep deliberating and sent them back into the jury room.
The jurors continued deliberating until about 11:40 a.m. today when they passed a second note to Ospina saying they were deadlocked. The judge asked them to return to the jury room and have lunch before deciding if they were truly hung.
This afternoon, the jury passed a final note saying, "After further deliberation, we have reached an impasse and we firmly believe that we will not be able to reach a unanimous decision." Ospina called the jurors into the courtroom at 2:42 p.m., released them and declared a mistrial.
During the trial, the alleged victim said he thought of Martinez as a mentor and an internationally prominent religious figure. He said during a road trip to a prayer service, Martinez began fondling his crotch and he pushed the preacher's hand away.
The man said that on another occasion, Martinez asked him to go into a car with him alone because he wanted to pray over him. He said that while praying, they closed their eyes and Martinez reached inside his pants.
Finally, the man said Martinez came to his Jersey City home unannounced one day, took him aside and asked him about his sexual habits. He said Martinez became concerned and said he wanted to pray over him again, so they went inside.
The 27-year-old said he pulled down his own pants and underwear and Martinez prayed over his genitals, which he also touched and kissed.
The man testified that at the time, he thought Martinez's actions had religious purpose and were proper. Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Baginski argued that the defendant used religion to manipulate the man for his own sexual gratification.
In his closing argument, Gonzalez told the jury that there was not one shred of evidence to corroborate the allegations, and that the case was rife with reasonable doubt.