The question before jurors in Santa Ana--well, some jurors in Santa Ana--comes down to this:
Did Max Danilo Martinez scope out six females in need of rides, make nice with them to coax them into drinking with him and later rape or sexually assault them? Or is each alleged victim lying about assaults said to have happened over a nine-year period when their ages ranged from 14 to 24 at random locations in Orange County and Corona?
When Martinez, now 33, was arrested in 2010, there were two victims: a girl who was a 14-year-old freshman at Westminster High School and a then-24-year-old who was walking alone in Santa Ana, where she was picked up for a ride home. Those cases were nine years apart; the others discovered later happened in between the incidents that produced the original arrest.
Martinez, a former Orange County resident who was living in Corona at the time of his arrest, is now charged with seven felonies: four counts of rape, one of rape of an unconscious person and two of sexual penetration by a foreign object.
The then-high school student and a friend had been shopping at the Orange mall called the Block on May 6, 2000, when Martinez, who was 20 at the time, pulled up in his car and offered them a ride, according to Deputy District Attorney Jess Rodriguez.
"The defendant played the role of the cool, older guy" who bought alcohol at a liquor store and took them back to his apartment, said Rodriguez (via City News Service courtroom reporter Paul Anderson). When one girl received a text from her mother noting she was out past her curfew, Martinez is said to have driven her home.
But he took the other "petite" girl back to his apartment, coaxed her into drinking another beer and then raped her before dropping her off in her neighborhood, Rodriguez alleged.
An 18-year-old woman was working with Martinez at a Verizon kiosk at Westminster Mall on Jan. 9, 2002, when they went out for drinks after their shift. Martinez allegedly drove her to a liquor store to buy a small bottle of Jack Daniels and then talked her into going with him to a Westminster-area motel where he said he was staying, Rodriguez said.
The woman said she felt "disproportionately drunk" for the amount of liquor she had, got sick and felt like she was in a "dream-like state" as she was raped, according to the prosecutor, who added the teen was "unable to resist him, fight back." Martinez is said to have driven her to her apartment afterward.
Another 18-year-old woman was walking home from her job at a Little Caesars restaurant in Garden Grove on Oct. 10, 2005, when Martinez is accused of pulling up in his car and offering her a ride. He indeed took her home without incident, then called her the next day offering another ride home. But, according to Rodriguez, the second ride included a stop at a liquor store and about a half hour of drinking together in a parking lot, where the woman started "feeling a little dizzy.''
Saying he too felt too drunk to drive, he allegedly suggested they walk to a nearby motel in Orange so they could sober up before the ride home. In the room, Martinez is accused of fingering the teen, who said she was menstruating and screamed for help. He is said to have stopped the assault and driven her home.
A 17-year-old girl who was walking along Sixth Street in Corona to school on March 20, 2008, when she was allegedly offered a ride home from Martinez, who was said to be wearing medical scrubs. Claiming that made him look trustworthy, she reported getting into the car, which was driven to a 7-11 store. Martinez is said to have emerged with alcohol and a suggestion that she ditch school.
You know where this is going by now: she took some sips, began fading in and out of consciousness and awoke at one point to discover she was being raped, according to Rodriguez, who claimed Martinez later "dumped her out at a Stater Bros. parking lot."
A 23-year-old woman walking home from her job at a Subway in Orange on April 22, 2008, refused Martinez's offer of a ride home--at first. But he allegedly would not let up, and when she spotted a child seat in the back of the car--and he explained he worked at a children's hospital nearby--she decided to get in, Rodriguez said.
Martinez allegedly drove her to the parking lot of a closed business, where he sexually assaulted her inside his vehicle. Later, when he stopped off for gas, she managed to get away, according to Rodriguez.
The final alleged victim was a 24-year-old woman who missed her bus in Santa Ana on Dec. 1, 2009. She began walking toward her doctor's office where she had an appointment when Martinez, again wearing scrubs, pulled up in a minivan, Rodriguez said.
Martinez allegedly claimed to work at a nearby clinic and offered a ride, but the doctor's office was not yet open so they went to a liquor store and then a Jack in the Box for some ice, Rodriguez said.
Here we go again: she felt "disproportionately drunk" considering how much alcohol she had consumed, according to Rodriguez, who claims she started feeling sick, weak and "numb" as she was moved to the back of the van where she was raped. She woke up on a picnic bench in a park.
The motel used in one of the incidents helped lead to Martinez's arrest because he'd used his driver's license to reserve the room, according to Rodriguez. While in custody, he submitted a DNA sample, which matched evidence from three of the cases, the prosecutor noted.
But Martinez's attorney, Shannon Winston of the Orange County Public Defender's office, claims all the females lied about their sexual encounters with him.
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"It's clear all of these women had reasons to lie," Winston says in Anderson's CNS report, adding they all had "consensual" sex with Martinez.
"My client did not rape any of them," Winston reportedly said.
If jurors ultimately disagree, Martinez will have a long time to stew about it. He faced up to 15 years in state prison with a conviction based on the first two alleged assaults.