AP

South Carolina judge upholds activist’s 4-year prison term

Oct 12, 2022, 1:47 PM | Updated: 3:34 pm

FILE - Brittany Martin, center, wearing striped clothing, confronts police as demonstrators in supp...

FILE - Brittany Martin, center, wearing striped clothing, confronts police as demonstrators in support of George Floyd march with an escort around downtown Sumter, S.C., on May 31, 2020. Martin, a pregnant Black activist serving four years in prison over comments she made to police during racial justice protests in the summer of 2020, will not receive a lesser sentence, a judge has ruled. (Micah Green/The Item via AP, File)

(Micah Green/The Item via AP, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A pregnant Black activist serving four years in prison over comments she made to police during racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 will not receive a lesser sentence, a judge in South Carolina has ruled.

A jury this spring found Brittany Martin, 34, of Sumter, South Carolina, guilty of breaching the peace in a high and aggravated manner. Martin’s attorneys pushed for the sentence to be reconsidered and expressed concern about her pregnancy and health. Racial justice groups also got involved.

In an Oct. 5 order, Judge R. Kirk Griffin pointed to Martin’s prior criminal convictions that he said contributed to her original sentence.

In November 2020, an Iowa judge sentenced Martin to probation for leaving the scene of an injury and willfully causing bodily harm after her teenage son accused her of purposely hitting him with her SUV and driving away. Griffin also noted previous convictions across multiple states for shoplifting, public disorderly conduct and possession of a short-barreled shotgun.

Sumter County Assistant Solicitor Bronwyn McElveen said in a September filing that Martin has been on probation at least six times.

“Probation has not been a deterrent to further criminal activities for the Defendant,” Griffin wrote in his order. “An active prison sentence was appropriate in this instance.”

Breach of the peace is a misdemeanor charge in South Carolina punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment when elevated to a “high and aggravated manner.”

Police body camera recordings presented in court and shared with the Associated Press show Martin addressing police officers during multiple days of demonstrations.

“Some of us gon’ be hurting. And some of y’all gon’ be hurting,” Martin told officers in one video. “We ready to die for this. We tired of it. You better be ready to die for the blue. I’m ready to die for the Black.”

McElveen also said in the filing that Martin’s actions prompted the city to impose a curfew and a local business lost profits because it had to close early.

The jury in May acquitted Martin of inciting a riot and reached no verdict on pending charges that she threatened public officials’ lives.

Martin’s lawyers argued that the sentence was inconsistent with similar cases in South Carolina and stiff compared to those doled out for Jan. 6 rioters. In a Wednesday statement, Bakari Sellers, her attorney and a former state lawmaker, said four years is “excessive” and that he intends to appeal.

Griffin said it was difficult to compare federal convictions from the Jan. 6 riots and the specifics of the case.

“The sentence in this case was based on the crime committed, the nature and classification of the offense, the Defendant’s prior criminal history/recidivism, and the seriousness of the crime,” Griffin wrote.

___

James Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

1 day ago

Near-total abortion ban in Arizona dates back to Civil War era...

Associated Press

Near-total abortion ban dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, before Arizona was a state

The near-total abortion ban resurrected last week by the Arizona Supreme Court dates to 1864, when settlers were encroaching on tribal lands.

1 day ago

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

2 days ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson...

Associated Press

House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week, along with funding for Ukraine.

2 days ago

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

4 days ago

Protesters in Phoenix shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona state Capitol after ...

Associated Press

Abortion ruling supercharges Arizona to be an especially important swing state

A ruling this week instituting a near-total abortion ban supercharged Arizona's role, turning it into the most critical battleground.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

South Carolina judge upholds activist’s 4-year prison term