The man who threw acid on a Thurston County judge in 2012 was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years and three months in prison.
Michael E. Martin, 36, pleaded guilty in late September to charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and malicious mischief. When he appeared in Thurston County Superior Court on Wednesday for sentencing, the victim, District Court Judge Michael “Brett” Buckley, was present to tell of the toll Martin’s attack had taken on his family, and the fear he and his wife still live with.
During the Sept. 10, 2012 attack, Buckley and his two dogs sustained chemical burns. The acid caused about $30,000 in damage to the family’s home. As a result, his wife wasn’t comfortable coming home to a dark, empty house and his adult daughters were hesitant to visit the home they grew up in. Eventually, Buckley and his wife sold their Olympia home of 27 years and moved.
Martin’s actions not only caused damage to the family and their residence — it threatened Thurston County’s criminal justice system, Buckley said.
“Judges should not have to live in fear that a decision they make would lead to an attack on them and their families,” Buckley said. “We, the citizens of this country, do not want judges having to consider the calculus of personal safety when determining how to resolve a case.”
According to court documents, Buckley opened the front door of his Olympia residence Sept. 10, 2012 and saw a man. The man threw liquid into his face, then turned and walked away. Buckley began to follow the man, but he felt his skin reacting to the liquid and went inside to wash it off.
The Olympia Police Department responded and Buckley was taken to the hospital and treated for chemical burns on his face, arm and leg. The liquid burned holes in the home’s carpet and stripped the finish off a metal door handle and a wood floor.
The Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory identified the liquid as sulfuric acid. At the time, police weren’t sure who the attacker was, according to court documents.
About a month later, Olympia Detective Chris Johnstone received a call from an FBI agent who was investigating Martin for threatening to kill an Army lawyer. The agent searched Martin’s house and found large quantities of sulfuric acid, plus more sulfuric acid in his car, documents show.
Johnstone learned Martin had appeared before Buckley a few times and, in one case, Buckley granted a domestic violence protection order against Martin, protecting an ex-girlfriend.
The detective searched Martin’s phone and found “to do” lists with entries such as “Find out where 2 get battery acid,” “Call private investigator,” “Find out who my judge was” and “Recon judge (expletives) home again.”
He later learned Martin hired a private investigator to find out where Buckley lived, and to find his ex-girlfriend and his former captain in the Army. Martin posted a message on his Facebook page warning Joint Base Lewis-McChord personnel to “stay looking over ur shoulder cuz if u dont u might find your (expletive) face melting off of ur (expletive) skulls.”
Martin was arrested Sept. 25, 2012, for making threats to a federal official. He pleaded guilty to the charge on March 20, 2013. Martin had been dishonorably discharged from the Army, according to court documents.
After serving his sentence in the federal case, he was booked into Thurston County jail, where he awaited resolution of the Thurston County case.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Martin spoke for nearly an hour. He said repeatedly Buckley should never have issued the no-contact order against him, and that his ex-girlfriend had invented the abuse allegations. He said Buckley’s actions led to unfair treatment by his superiors in the Army, an eventual court martial and his dishonorable discharge.
“That’s when I decided to prevent Judge Buckley from destroying the life of an innocent, disabled war veteran again,” Martin said.
Martin said he had no intention of killing Buckley, or even hurting him. He said he only wanted to scare him away from court.
When he finished speaking, Judge Pro Tempore Toni Sheldon reminded him that he wasn’t the victim in this case — Buckley was.
“You are not the victim, you are the perpetrator,” Sheldon said.
“You appear to be intelligent, you just have the wrong focus at this point,” she said.