By Joshua Cenzano
SANTA BARBARA, CA – Bryan Martinez appeared before Judge Clifford Anderson III Monday in Santa Barbara County Superior Courthouse to answer for a series of reckless driving incidents sustained on the morning of June 8, 2020.
He is accused of driving at speeds ranging from “85 to 100 miles per hour,” according to the testimony of one officer, and during that time rear-ending at least nine cars before his own vehicle was disabled and he was apprehended by police.
Martinez’s attorney, Steven Andrade, argued his client had been undergoing a psychotic episode and was not in control of his actions.
Martinez had stated previously that he believed he was being pursued by members of a sex trafficking ring and that he had vital information that they were trying to recover. He maintained that this was the reason he had been driving so erratically.
He entered a plea for all counts as not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.
However, in light of the preliminary nature of Monday’s proceeding, evidence pertaining to Martinez’s mental state was not admitted since it is not considered relevant evidence at this stage.
Assistant District Attorney Michelle Mossembekker called four witnesses to provide evidence for the alleged violations.
Officers Hernan Covarrubias, Brandon Frazier, Victor Sanchez, and Jonathan Gutierrez of the California Highway Patrol provided their accounts of interviews with victims from each of the nine cars.
In each case, the officers detailed the locations of the victims as well as the victims’ observations when they were each struck by Martinez’s Ford F-350, at times relying on notes from their own police reports.
Each recollection of the victims’ accounts was similar. Martinez was allegedly driving on the 101 northbound around Summerland at a high speed, “weaving in and out of lanes,” according to Officer Frazier.
The officer added that Martinez allegedly struck each victim’s vehicle at least once in the rear before speeding past them without stopping, leaving some vehicles able to pull off to the shoulder safely while leaving others completely disabled, facing the opposite direction.
“It was like a bad Disneyland ride,” said one victim according to Gutierrez, who indicated that she had suffered a head injury among other things as a result of the collision.
One of the witnesses interviewed by Gutierrez provided exceptionally strong evidence.
After being struck by Martinez’s truck, he said he was able to regroup and catch up to Martinez, where he captured Martinez’s license plate number and videotaped a few of the other collisions.
The witness also approached Martinez’s vehicle once it had become disabled, according to Gutierrez and the video footage, to ascertain the reason behind his reckless driving.
Martinez allegedly became belligerent and exited the truck, running onto the San Ysidro Road onramp before being restrained by some witnesses on scene. Police arrived soon thereafter and regained control of the situation.
While Martinez did not testify, Officer Gutierrez recounted his interview with him while testifying.
Martinez allegedly told the officer he believed that he had uncovered information about a sex trafficking ring that had killed and buried the bodies of several women and he was attempting to escape members of that ring pursuing him.
Gutierrez recounted how Martinez believed there were not only a number of vehicles behind him on the freeway pursuing him, but that every car he had struck had also been attempting to stop him and that he was merely trying to “push them out of the way.”
Defense Attorney Andrade cited the 2000 California Supreme Court case People v. Hernandez, arguing sanity should be considered an affirmative defense in the preliminary setting, but upon consideration.
The judge disagreed, noting while sanity is a relevant issue to the case, under California law, a defendant must first be tried for guilt while presumed to be sane, and then tried for insanity under an insanity plea.
Judge Anderson rejected the defense’s argument and found there to be a strong suspicion that the crimes were committed, and that Martinez had committed them.
He will be arraigned on 12 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of vandalism exceeding damages of $400, all felony counts. He will also face five misdemeanor violations.