ISLETA PUEBLO, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico police officer is behind bars, accused of raping a drunk driving suspect while taking her to jail. The alleged victim says she felt she had no choice, fearing he would add charges or worse. Leon Martin, 22, was arrested Tuesday by New Mexico State Police. They say, Martin, who worked for the Isleta Police Department, admitted to much of what happened.
The woman reported the assault last week at the hospital, saying she was arrested for DWI on the Isleta Pueblo by Martin. On the way to jail, she says Martin pulled his patrol car over into a dark area and asked her to come to the driver’s side. She says he took off his vest and gun belt and then raped her. Angel Charley, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, says while it’s frustrating someone sworn to protect their communities abused that power, it’s not uncommon.
“Rape is fundamentally about an abuse of power and that’s essentially what we are seeing here,” said Charley. “Unfortunately, we do know that this is common.”
The victim says she was scared and afraid that he would shoot her or add extra charges to her DWI case if she didn’t comply. She says Martin told her, in exchange, he would talk to the judge to help reduce her charges and “if they spent a longer amount of time together, she would spend a shorter amount of time in jail and would get to see the judge quicker.” A couple of days later, the victim told investigators she tested positive for chlamydia, following the assault.
“Sexual misconduct by police officers is the second highest type of misconduct, right behind police brutality,” said Charley. “We know that police officers who do this, they do target those most vulnerable — gender non-conforming people, in this instance, someone who was under the influence, folks who engage in sex work. These are populations of people who are targeted because they’re seen as less credible.”
In an interview with NMSP, Martin admitted to having sex with the woman while she was under arrest but told them she had initiated the encounter and he had a lapse in judgment. The alleged victim told police she recognized Martin from a previous domestic violence incident and he had messaged her on Facebook afterward. She says she felt like he was “trying to hit on her.”
Vernon Abeita, the governor of the Isleta Pueblo, issued a statement, confirming Martin is now, no longer employed by the Pueblo and they are cooperating fully with the investigation. Martin faces multiple felonies, including criminal sexual penetration, false imprisonment, demanding or receiving a bribe by a public officer, and ethics violations. A future court date has not yet been set.